News from the Capitol and around Wisconsin
We hope you had time to relax over the weekend, and that your work week is off to a productive start.
This week, we will again talk about the pending state budget, Wisconsin Cheese Day, a new solution being floated around regarding transportation, some bills passed by the Assembly last week, a public safety proposal by a Wisconsin lawmaker, and a push for a public healthcare option for Wisconsinites.
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,
It's no secret, the state budget will not pass in time for the June 30th deadline. It's already been confirmed by those on the inside of the Capitol, and even logistically it would be impossible. The Joint Finance Committee would have to finish its work before referring its final budget back to the full Assembly and Senate. Then both of those houses must pass an identical budget, and then send it to the Governor in time for his review, vetoes, and signature. That process takes weeks, and with only four days remaining, rendering any hope for passage completely unrealistic.
As reported last week, and months prior, not much has changed as far as the stalemate between Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Governor Walker and Senate Majority Leader Fitzgerald.
Transportation continues to be the biggest issue dominating the landscape, as the Governor and Senate would like to stick with the original plan that borrows $500 million, putting the state's top-ranking republican leaders at odds with one another. By the way, total borrowing would be $850 million if this plan is enacted.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has even implied that true conservatives would not sign off on a plan to borrow $500 million when there are alternatives in place that would only impact those who drive on Wisconsin roads- the gas tax and vehicle registration fees.
Education continues to be a big topic, as Governor Walker's roughly-$650 million in state funding would be applied to all school districts equally, whereas the Assembly would like to see a more focused approach, giving larger increases to school districts that spend less- mainly rural school districts. The Senate released a plan last week that seems to be building some consensus, and hopefully one less issue will be blocking the road to final passage of the budget.
Finally taxes. This is as good as any guess out there. We will see what happens with PPT, income tax, and other tax issues such as the sales tax holiday, and the push from the Assembly to move income taxes to a flat tax.
Today, Governor Walker did signal that he was hopeful for a budget agreement in the near future. A hopeful sign in a not-so-certain situation.
As the final push to a finalized budget progresses, WPT will keep you up to date and informed on all of the latest news. If you have any questions or comments about any of our budget efforts thus far, or regarding anything you have read in this article, don't hesitate to reach out to me directly at email@example.com.
Gov. Walker and leaders tour state, celebrate
Wisconsin Cheese Day
Happy Wisconsin Cheese Day!
Today, Governor Walker, DATCP Secretary Ben Brancel, and WEDC Secretary and CEO Mark Hogan will visit six cheese companies throughout the state, taking part in Wisconsin Dairy Month activities.
The leaders will tour the state, highlighting the importance of the cheese industry to the Wisconsin economy and acknowledge their contributions to the industry.
"Now that cheese is the official dairy product of Wisconsin, it's only fitting that we visit some of the more than 140 cheese producers in the state to acknowledge their role in keeping Wisconsin a world leader in the industry," Governor Walker said. "The state's 1,200 licensed cheesemakers work hard every day to produce more than 600 varieties of cheese that are sold around the world, and Wisconsin Cheese Day is a chance for us to celebrate their successes."
The Governor and leaders will visit Klokdike in Monroe, Great Lakes Cheese in La Crosse, Masters Gallery Foods in Plymouth, Rosewood Dairy in Algoma, Westby Cooperative Creamery in Westby, and Biery Cheese Co. in Plover.
Wisconsin cheesemakers produce 27 percent of the nation's cheese, ranking our state as the top cheese producing state in the country. If Wisconsin was its own country, it would rank fourth in the world in overall cheese production behind the US, Germany, and France. Wisconsin produced 3.2 billion pounds of cheese in 2016, and exported more than $127 million in cheese products around the world in 2016, which was a 16 percent increase since 2010.
Governor Walker also proclaimed June as "Dairy Month" throughout Wisconsin, with our state having more than 9,000 dairy farms, providing nearly 80,000 jobs and generating $43.4 billion in economic impact annually.
Could a per mile fee on heavy trucks fix transportation funding?
This is one of the big questions being floated around the Capitol these days. At least one lawmaker, Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, who also sits on the Joint Finance Committee, seems to think so. This could also be something that helps bust through the giant transportation wall that's been holding up this budget for months, also helping avoid toll roads.
Wisconsin would be the fifth state nationally to place a per mile fee on heavy trucks that do the most damage to roads, making it pointless to invest the millions of dollars and infrastructure needed to implement toll roads throughout the state. In other words, if you're going to break it, you're going to pay for it.
The southern Wisconsin lawmaker thinks that this approach along with other spending cuts could help close the gap that has the legislature sitting on the rest of the state budget, causing nothing to move in the next two-year $76 billion funding plan.
Last week, Joint Finance Co-Chair said all options are on the table, with Senate Majority Leader Fitzgerald not having been too familiar with the details and no official comment from the Governor's office.
Since most of Wisconsin's commerce and goods are transported via truck, this could be a major generator of revenue, with some estimates showing upwards of $250 million, if modeled after the 2.5-cent fee that Kentucky implemented, for example. That's half of the amount that Governor Walker has proposed borrowing, drawing opposition from other republicans in the legislature.
Also, logistically, some lawmakers think this plan would be much more easy to implement since truckers are already required to log miles due to international transportation compacts. However, a system for tracking miles within Wisconsin would need to be developed.
Assembly passes recount changes, voucher measures, credit card skimmer bill, and more
Last week, the State Assembly passed a bill that limits the whose, whats, whens of Wisconsin's recount laws, that would allow only candidates who end up within one percent of the winner's vote total (in an election with 4,000 votes at least) to request a recount. If the election had less than 4,000 votes, the candidate must have been within 40 votes to request a recount. Also, under this legislation, the deadline for a recount petition to be filed would be shortened.
Also passed by the Assembly was a bill that creates felony charges to possessing or using a credit card skimmer, a device commonly attached to ATM, gasoline pump and other devices that scans personal banking information and allows criminals to take money. The bill also made operators of gas stations or fuel pumps immune from liability in the event that a skimmer is used on their premises.
Additionally, the Assembly voted and passed a bipartisan bill that would require private schools accepting taxpayer voucher dollars to conduct background checks on potential employees, but also loosened some of the academic standards to which voucher schools are held, namely a standard that says voucher students must have 70 percent of students advance one grade level, 80 percent demonstrate significant progress, average attendance rates are met.
Finally, a bill was also passed that would create a felony for anybody who possesses, makes, or distributes fentanyl, a pain medication that is more potent than morphine, and has been found recently being added to heroin to maximize its impact.
WPT Weekly Member Poll Results:
Redistricting case heading to SCOTUS, JFC adding state employee raises to budget, State Senate voting to make Veterans Day a state holiday, the REINS Act headed for Gov. Walker's signature, and 1999.
The US Supreme Court has decided to hear the case regarding Wisconsin redistricting. If you had to guess, do you think the court will...
Over 40 percent aren't sure, and over 30 percent guess that the Supreme Court will side with the Republicans. About a quarter of respondents believe the Supreme Court will side with Democrats and order the maps redrawn.
"When gerrymandering is so extreme as to cause ONE home in a ward/municipality to be in a different district from ALL others in the same ward...There IS a problem."
"Of course the "liberal" lower courts have ruled it unconstitutional. The judges in Dane County are no different than those on the 9th Circut Court on the West Coast. They like to legislate from the bench. When the democrats had control of redistricting my area which is conservative was represented by the Madison Liberals, not much interest in even voting when your representatives were miles apart from you on all issues."
"There was nothing done wrong in the first place."
"It's hard to say how a few of the more conservative judges will rule, but if we truly believe in a real democracy and not in a paper mache democracy then this gerrymandering must end. It will beneift all of us; conservative/liberal. Our society should not be ruled by the extremes of either side as what happens with gerrymandering. Vos may say what they do is legal and consitutional...but democratic and moral is a whole other story."
"I think that redistricting should be outlawed. I think the maps stay put. Period. Quit messing with it."
"When the Democrats are in power they will do the same thing. Gerrymandering has been happening for a very long time by both of the parties."
"They'll vote to continue gerrymandering so that our partisan nightmare will continue. We need moderate governance in the US, and gerrymandering is killing the country. I only believe the USSC will rule the maps as constitutional because it's hard to believe we'll ever get off this road of doom."
JFC gave state employees a 4% raise over the next two years. Are you expecting a raise in the next two years?
Nearly 60 percent of respondents said they don't anticipate getting a raise in the next two years. Over 30 percent believe they will get a raise.
"We give our employees a dollar raise every year after winterm layoff and a rehire bonus. Plus a raise or bonuses through out the construction season."
"When milk prices crash, we go farther into debt."
"I'm on S.S. What have seen for raises in the last five years?"
"Self employed, I am hoping I get a raise in grain prices."
"My last raise was 8 months ago, 6%."
"I hope to be able to give raises this year but am hesitant that will happen. With the constant increase in health, dental, uniforms, and cell phone coverage, that's all I could handle last year. Perhaps it's time to increase my labor rate."
"No, I'm self-employed. I give my employees raises...with the type of unemployment we have, we have to do what we can to keep our existing employees."
"Where's my raise? I haven't had a raise since I was 19. FLAT wages. I've even tried changing fields for a wage increase. Nope. Doesn't work. I think that state employees should feel the pinch too. Not just private people."
"With the exception of 2007-8 when the economy had crashed, our little company has offered 3% raises every year, keeping everyone above the rate of inflation. The current CPI is 2.1%, so pop the champagne corks, State Employees, you'll only need to downgrade your standard of living .1% this year, which is better than the last many years. -- Sure, no one likes to pay taxes, but our governmental bodies need to be fair .. with the exception of recessionary periods, it's simply unfair to not grant COLA increases every year. It's basic fairness."
The State Senate voted to make Veterans Day a holiday in Wisconsin. All government offices will be closed, but private companies would not have to take the day off. Which option do you choose?
The break-down on this one was interesting. A little more than 15 percent think Veterans Day should be a holiday just for government offices, nearly a quarter believe the holiday should include the private sector, and over 40 percent do not feel Veterans Day should become an official state holiday.
"Already have too many 'holidays' for state/federal employees/entities."
"There is enough government holidays already!"
"I really don't know but would it be a paid or unpaid holiday??" Paid.
"Not sure if it needs to be an official holiday, but I feel if you are a veteran, you get the day off no matter what! I do respect and remember what those who have served in our military have done. I am afraid if we make it a day off for everyone, unfortunately it will be another day to have fun and forget to remember the sacrifices our veterans have made for our country."
"Our Vets served in the government and private companies. The government offices get too many days off."
"There are enough paid government holidays- the normal workforce will be working regardless of the decision."
"This country has enough holidays. Seems the post office is always closed."
"Nope. Bad idea."
"No need for yet another day off."
The REINS Act is headed for Governor Walker's desk. The bill says that state agencies cannot impose regulations on businesses that cost more than $10 million. Good move or bad move?
Nearly 50 percent of respondents think this is good.
"Regulation and more government involvement is strangling."
"The word 'regulation' does not mean 'it is bad.' If we want to review regulations to tweak them, fine. But this is just another Republican Oligarchist move to empore large rich corporations over all of us, 'small folk.' I can't wait to roast my smores over a nice fire on Lake Michigan."
"Should be LOWER."
"Bad move. Anything that involves the legislature and politicians creates potential for corruption. Leave it to expert regulators and the executive branch."
"We didn't do anything. Was just another day when we woke up."
"Remember it, but didn't really do anything to prepare for it. Figured God had my back and would take care of me, as always and He did and always has. God is good all the time and all the time God is good."
"Don't remember what we did in 1999."
"Know people who bought generators and took all their money out of banks and stocked cabins with food."
"Absolutely NOTHING was done differently. I am aware of large companies who went into panic mode regarding computer issues but know of no one who actually stocked food and was afraid the world would come to an end. Silly foolishness."
"Y2K = Big ratings scam for the media"
"I Was working in IT for the Y2K scare. I twas insanity. Over nothing."
"No need to prepare for something that's not going to happen."
"Didn't do anything for Y2K. Was more media 'hullaballoo' than anything."
"VOTE FOR PEDRO."
Two lawmakers push bill to make BadgerCare a public option
If you like BadgerCare and wanted to purchase it from the State of Wisconsin as your healthcare provider, you could do so under a bill being circulated by two Green Bay democrats, Sen. Dave Hansen and Rep. Eric Genrich.
The two lawmakers referred to their legislation as cost effective, and a measure that could enable every Wisconsinite to obtain affordable health insurance. The bill would essentially turn BadgerCare into a default public option for all Wisconsin residents who do not receive health insurance through an employer, or if they do not like plans being provided on the existing health exchange. That exchange's future is uncertain, as the US Senate will debate this week on whether or not to pass the American Healthcare Act, passed by the House of Representatives last month.
Lawmaker circulating "Data-Distracted" Driving Bill
Representative Shannon Zimmerman (R-River Falls) last week unveiled LRB-3806/1 which would increase penalties and accountability for individuals that inattentively operate a motor vehicle.
In 2016, there were 25,549 crashes on Wisconsin roads due to distracted driving. Also, 121 deaths have been attributed to inattentive or texting while driving. That's up 68% in just two years.
"Distraction comes in a variety of forms. [This bill] is a significant step in the right direction of raising awareness and increasing the punishment for those who carelessly, recklessly, or ignorantly let themselves shift their attention from the task at hand, safe operation of their motor vehicle," said Rep. Zimmerman. "Let's continue to raise awareness and support this great step towards fewer accidents and safer roads for Wisconsinites."