News from the Capitol and around Wisconsin
We hope you enjoyed the weekend and are gearing up to enjoy the holiday tomorrow. We would like to wish all of our members and your families a very happy Independence Day!
This week, we will be talking about the budget (again), the proposed heavy truck tax, lead service line replacement aid from the state, a plan to limit the state's lottery advertising budget, Worker's Compensation relief, and more.
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 email@example.com.
Have a great week,
In a somewhat surprise move last week, Governor Walker offered a large compromise on his proposed budget, hoping to bring lawmakers closer to a budget deal that has clogged up state government funding in Wisconsin since its June 30th deadline.
One of the Governor's largest disagreements has been with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who opposes Walker's proposal for $500 million in new transportation borrowing. Instead, the Speaker is opting for increasing revenues to pay for roads and fix a near-billion dollar deficit on roads. Vos favors more the idea of creating those new revenues via increases to the state's gas tax, or registration fees.
The compromise last week came in the form of Governor Walker amending his plan to call for $200 million in borrowing reductions, and instead relying on ten times more in federal aid than Wisconsin has received traditionally. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald seemed in agreement with the plan, though did not feel any overall budget deal would be struck in the coming weeks.
But the stalemate in the Assembly seemed to continue, with leadership in that chamber still opposing plans that do not include new revenue streams for pay for roads. What does have leaders in agreement is the need for reforms and savings at the Department of Transportation.
Additionally, a plan that surfaced two weeks ago, which WPT reported on, that would increase tax on heavy trucks, seems to be dead. After multiple organizations, business owners, and lawmakers came out opposed to the plan, it seems to have been stopped dead in its tracks. Last week, Speaker Vos sent a letter to various business groups asking them for their specific wants to remedy the state's road funding woes.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wisconsin Supreme Court sides with property rights in Milewski v. Dover decision
The Wisconsin Supreme Court last week sided with the Milewski family, finding that their constitutional rights had been violated after their property assessment had been inflated solely based on their refusal to allow an assessor into their home.
The court, in 5-2 decision, reversed the decision of a lower court, which means that a Senate Bill 158, which WPT has been working on in the Capitol, should now be passed without delay.
Currently in Wisconsin, if a homeowner does not want to allow an assessor into the interior of their home, the homeowner then gives up the right to appeal the assessment. Because of this Supreme Court ruling, that is no longer the case.
In the case of Vincent Milewski, he and his wife denied entry into their home by an assessor, and then found that the only people in their communities who saw an increase in their assessments were those who did in fact refuse entry. Every other homeowner saw decreases in their assessment. This called into question the fundamental right of allowing government officials into one's home, and whether or not an assessment could be hiked with no other evidence other than refusal.
The aforementioned legislation would allow homeowners to appear before boards of review to appeal their assessments, even if they did not allow an assessor into their home. It would also require that assessors provide homeowners with a written copy of their right to refuse entry into their private residence. WPT members, when polled, support this legislation, which our organization is hopeful will pass in during this legislative session.
Foxconn may bring 10,000 jobs to Wisconsin
A global Taiwanese contract manufacturer, which makes iPhone and Sharp televisions, is eyeing up Wisconsin as a potential new home for part of their $10 billion initiative on new facilities in the United States.
If they chose Southeastern Wisconsin, which seems to be the most likely spot, it would bring 10,000 jobs to the state, and a huge boost to manufacturing and family-supporting jobs in the state.
Other states are under consideration, but with a large push from Governor Walker, Assembly Speaker Vos, House Speaker Paul Ryan, and other leaders, it seems as though our state is in the best position for the new facility. Additionally, the corporation has been in talks with local leaders regarding infrastructure needs, should the project move forward.
Another concern at hand is whether or not Wisconsin is ready to embrace such a large tech-sector corporation, or whether or not Wisconsin has the type of employees to fit the positions. Only time will tell whether or not the company chooses our state, but we look like a strong contender currently.
In other good news, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos also mentioned, not by name, that another large company is thinking of moving to Southeastern Wisconsin, but has been paying attention to Wisconsin's transportation battle, and cannot make decisions until certainty regarding the massive I-94 project's future.
School districts bypassing taxpayers, sneaking in tax hikes before budget passage
A very expensive exemption that allows school districts to bypass their state-imposed revenue caps for energy efficiency construction projects, is going to end up costing taxpayers even more money before its near-certain repeal in the upcoming state budget.
The exemption, which has been around since 2009, has cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars without any type of voice or referendum in the process. In 2015, it cost taxpayers $347 million, and the total for 2017 has already rocketed past $300 million.
Saying, "the statute might go away," the Maple School District administrator explained that district's rationale for continuing to go behind property taxpayers' backs locally to the tune of $339,536, and why some districts are hastily voting to use this exemption before the budget passes.
Superior also passed something similar last month, costing taxpayers $606,000 and another contract for $31,851.
To qualify for these exemptions, the districts are required to enter into a performance agreement with an energy company before they are allowed to move forward with passing a board resolution.
Multiple studies have shown the long-term debt-to-energy cost savings to be disproportionately high for local property taxpayers, who are already saddled with providing most funding for local services. As such, WPT supports the removal of this exemption, and advocates for these types of exemptions and projects to also go to referendum, as other exemptions on limits and revenues are already required to do.
WPT Weekly Member Poll Results:
Budget deadline passes, lead pipe replacement aids, Workers Comp premium decrease, reducing the advertising budget of the State Lottery, and your lottery activity.
The budget deadline has officially passed without any deals struck. If you had to guess, do you think the budget will be agreed upon, passed, and enacted by:
About 45 percent believe the budget will be finalized sometime in August. Nearly 40 percent believe it will be sometime this month, and under 10 percent think the process will drag on longer.
"We desperately need honorable leadership. Not politics as usual."
"Republicans need to get together and make a compromise. Failure to do so will not sit well at election time. Gas tax doesn't cut it for transportation funding any longer because of the efficiency of the automobiles on the road. Need to move to a different source as more and more hybrids and electric cars travel our roads, this well will run even dryer than it has become. All vehicles that travel our roads use tires, that may be the item we should be adding a tax to. The sales tax paid on a purchase of a vehicle could also be earmarked for the transportation fund."
"NO, not surprised. Frustrated, yes, why can't they get things done on time?"
"Not surprised and not aggravated."
"Drain the swamp!"
"Not surprised at all."
"Too many special interests after available tax dollars. Government cannot fund everything for everyone."
"Stop pleasing everyone, make the hard choices and move forward Wisconsin."
"Hope it's done in July because our county budget needs to be done in September."
"This was to be expected. After 6 years of cutting taxes (and services)..surprise! We don't have enough revenue to maintain the state. This causes such angst in the GOP, they can't pass a budget and do what needs to be done. Revert prior tax cuts."
"Yes, Get to work if private enterprises did this they would be out of business."
"Failure to achieve goals...Most employers would fire incompetent employees. Fire our so called legislators!!"
"They should have the budget passed without any delays."
Governor Walker has announced $14 million in awards to communities to replace lead service lines. Do you live in a community where lead pipes have been an issue?
Surprisingly, about 80 percent of respondents do not live in an area with lead pipe issues.
"I live in the country and pay for all my costs related to my well and do not receive any government help."
"The municipality will suck up all that money for their 'administrative costs' and none of it will get to the property owner who is hard pressed to come up with the cash for lead line replacement."
"I had to pay to my house. City paid on the mains. Sounds good enough to me."
"We live in the country."
"Live in the country with a well."
Businesses will see a near-8.5% decrease in Worker's Comp premiums this year. Do you deal with worker's compensation in any way (as an employer, employee, etc)?
About 45 percent have to deal with Workers Compensation, and nearly 50 do not.
"Work comp is a rip off. There needs to be a fund that the employees get some of that $$ we as employers pay in for them. If they stay safe and don't get hurt or make a claim they should be able to pull a percentage of that premium we have paid in for them as a nice nest egg at retirement. Just an idea. I've had discussions with Assemblyman Jarchow about this issue."
"I pay dearly for worker's compensation premiums because of the nature of my business. I have employees that have filed claims, and rightly so, but the healthcare industry sees these claims coming and their eyes get glassy because they see a worker's comp case as a real money maker. My employees that have had to go thru the worker's comp "circus" feel taken advantage of by the healthcare professionals because of the nature of their injury. This is the whole problem with our healthcare system, healthcare has become a big time for profit business and in the process has ruined healthcare for this country."
"Yes we pay WC premiums. We also have been fortunate enough to never have a major claim. We have a good rating and get a kick back every year from our insurer."
"Pay premiums for employees."
"We had someone put in a claim that wasn't...it never went anywhere. They just thought they'd get money and THEN go to the doctor. Our WC went up DRASTICALLY after that. Decrease would be nice."
"Work Comp premiums ar ea substantial expense for our business. The rate decrease is welcome news."
"As a trucking company owner, our rates are high so any drop helps."
A bipartisan effort to limit the Wisconsin Lottery's advertising budget has been proposed. Good idea? Bad idea?
About two thirds of respondents think limiting the lottery advertising budget is a good idea.
"They could ease up on their general advertising as well...as well as the casinos...I am sick of all the Lottery and casino ads, they are so corney and isn't something I will waste my money on in the first place."
"Lottery or any form of gambling causes more harm than good."
"Should not advertise at all."
"it's fine to advertise large jackpots. Other than that, no."
"That money could be spent on better things than advertising."
"Once in a while as a poor birthday gift."
"Nope, I work hard for my money."
"NO, they are a joke and actually wish this whole mess would have ever come to this state. I would much better spend my time in the outdoors and be blessed by the beauty this state has to offer, money isn't everything. I am personally annoyed when I have to stand in line to pay for my car fuel and have someone trying to decide how they want to blow their money on stupid scratch off tickets and then proceeds to scratch them off right there and continue their transaction if they have a winning ticket and using it to purchase more tickets. Gambling makes for a sick society."
"We only buy rarely. When a big pot gets high or scratch offs as gifts for people."
"No, not lucky."
"No, I have way better things to do with my money."
"I don't get why people like it. But I admit, it does feel good to win anything, even if it's $1"
"Occasionally $2 lottery tickets."
"Cross word scratch off"
"I don't buy them"
"No. Sad to see people who appear to have limited incomes, spending on gambling."
"What a waste."
"Between my wife and I we are lucky if we buy 2 to 4 tickets per year. Farming is enough of a GAMBLE"
"I do not buy lottery tickets regularly, maybe Powerball once a year."
"Don't guy any. Gamble enough farming."
"I buy lottery tickets maybe 2-3 times per year when the jackpots are north of $150m. Fun to dream for a few hours."
"I have never nought any so please keep buying them so I can receive the maximum benefit."
"I don't guy any type of lottery tickets, etc. It's a waste of good money."
"once a year."
"Occasionally buy a quick pick...Occasionally buy a couple scratch off for birthday cards. Total spent...perhaps $10.00-$15.00 a year."
"never have bought one."
"once in a while when the jackpot is high."
"My husband does and I don't, I think it's a waste of money."
Wisconsin Medicaid budget to finish with surplus
In some welcome news, Wisconsin's health officials have notified the state that the massive Medicaid budget will end with an additional $325 million in the bank for the 2015-2017 biennium.
The state's Department of Health Services sent a letter to legislative leaders, explaining that they would have a balance, although it would be about $5 million less than anticipated. The letter also said that the balance is due, in part, to some one-time factors including higher federal matching numbers, and slower enrollment numbers.
The DHS officials did officially write in the letter that their department and program expenditures would grow in the upcoming budget.
Bill would allow firearm education in Wisconsin schools
Wisconsin's high schoolers could opt to learn how to handle and use various guns, including hand guns and rifles, if a bill by State Rep. Ken Skowronski (R-Franklin) passes the legislature.
According to the bill's author, the legislation would allow schools to offer on-site gun education classes in an attempt to promote gun safety and boost participation in trap shooting. The bill would not make any changes to current law that prohibits live rounds on school property.
The bill also would not require schools to offer the class, and no students would be required to take the courses. It also allows school superintendents to develop the curriculum for the course. Also, according to the bill's author, the legislation had 23 co-sponsors as of last week.
State's cranberry growers seeing challenges
Despite record harvests in 2016, Wisconsin's cranberry growers are seeing some uncertain times ahead when it comes to making profit off of their product.
According to the USDA, our state produced 6.13 billion barrels of cranberry, or a 26 percent bump from 2015.
But the commodity prices is well below the cost of production, much like many other agri-type businesses and industries nationwide, according to some experts. Among other struggles, cranberry juice sales have been stagnant to declining, therefore the amount of cranberry reserves have been increasing.
National and local leaders are taking notice, hoping that international exports could turn things around, in combination with cutting their costs or borrowing more to keep their operations alive.
According to Tom Lochner from the Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association, the United States exports around 35 percent of the cranberries grown here, with that number continuing to increase.