News from the Capitol and around Wisconsin
We hope your Monday has been good, and that you enjoyed the first days of the month of August.
This week, the Capitol Report will focus on Foxconn, the budget impasse causing a delay in DOT statistics, Wisconsin losing yet another insurer on the Affordable Care Act exchange marketplace, bankruptcies in the state, a new bill that would modernize alcohol regulations statewide, farm expenses for 2016, 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,
Perhaps the biggest happening in state government last week was the public hearing on the now-controversial Foxconn bill, which is now moving through the legislative process while the state budget impasse continues to take a back seat to the Taiwanese manufacturer's impending move to Wisconsin.
The hearing, whose speakers were on an invited list, consisted of business groups, lawmakers, local officials, and others, who voiced concerns, gave praise, asked questions, and overall had a lot of interesting information to share.
State officials, on both sides of the aisle, weighed in on the issue, often calling the prospect of Foxconn's presence in Wisconsin "transformational," citing jobs numbers, economic boom, development prospects and a wide array of other net positives of the project. Others also said they were skeptical, citing a past deal by Foxconn with the State of Pennsylvania that never came to fruition.
Other information was also released and revealed at the public hearing, such as starting salaries. Walker administration officials revealed that machine operators would start at a wage of $20/hour, and according to WEDC executive Mark Hogan, the giant tech manufacturer won't receive any tax benefits for jobs that pay below $30,000 per year. Democrats asked for Foxconn to provide those numbers in writing.
Concerns were also raised about the potential for DNR and environmental regulations to be rolled back for the massive project. Those concerns were countered by reminding skeptics that all federal air and water regulations will still remain in effect for the region, not allowing Foxconn to skirt any type of safety standards for surrounding areas.
Last week, we also heard that Foxconn might be considering a second Wisconsin location, perhaps Dane County, where they are rumored to have spoken to local business leaders. The prospect of using the old Oscar Mayer site in Madison, which has been shut down completely as of earlier this summer. It's likely that research and development operations would take place at the second facility.
It's now also expected that Foxconn's payroll would be upwards of $800 million per year once their projects have completed and they are fully operational in the state.
There were a lot of numbers, facts, and figures that were thrown around in the past week. I can certainly understand the skepticism and the praise alike, but one thing is certain; we must make sure that local taxpayers are guaranteed safeguards for a project of this size and scope.
The Assembly Committee on Jobs and the Economy is expected to vote on Special Session Assembly Bill 1 tomorrow.
DOT road condition study delayed
With the State of Wisconsin's attention having shifted toward Foxconn, the ongoing budget impasse continues, this time with the results of a critical study being delayed by road officials.
Following a massive audit of the state's DOT, the department pledged that it would know and release information that painted an outline of Wisconsin's overall road conditions. From that study, information about those conditions would also entail a prioritization list for critical repairs.
Last week, however, the DOT decided that the estimates would be released in late August, leaving many questions unanswered by many local and state officials.
Currently, DOT's facts and figures show Wisconsin's busiest road conditions improving, with nearly 79% of the state's non-major highways scoring a "fair or better" rating as of 2015. The department has a goal of 80%. Geographically speaking however, the state's western and northern roads are in worse-off shape than other regions. One report showed Pepin County with 26 percent of top-rated highways, while across the state in Winnebago and Ozaukee Counties the rating came in at 93 percent.
Wisconsin's ACA exchange loses another insurer
After Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield's announcement last month that it would drop individual coverage in Wisconsin next month due to the unpredictable market, and after Humana left the market earlier this year, Wisconsin is now set to lose its current largest health insurer, Molina Healthcare.
California-based Molina announced its plans to drop out of Wisconsin and Utah late last week, reporting a quarterly net loss of $230 million, saying they are disappointed in their bottom-line results. The company said it would take aggressive and urgent measures in order to find a sustainable way to improve their financial situation in the future.
The company also announced that it plans to raise premiums 55 percent next year in the other insurance marketplaces where it will still offer coverage. Insurance companies have a firm deadline of September to decide whether or not they will remain in various marketplaces, so this could mean that other carriers will leave the Wisconsin marketplace as well.
With, for example, only three insurers remaining in Milwaukee County, and even less in other parts of the state, this puts those companies in a very risky position, and leaving many individuals wondering whether or not they will still have insurance when the open enrollment period begins later this year.
"Cheers Wisconsin!" bill proposed by lawmakers
A bill that would modernize Wisconsin's way of business for alcohol sales and distribution could get an overhaul, if a group of Republican lawmakers in Madison get their way.
"Cheers Wisconsin" was proposed as a "more consumer friendly" bill in comparison to an earlier and highly-publicized bill that would have forced the state's breweries to stop selling beer in their own facilities. That legislation would have also called for harsher regulations, forcing breweries to only sell their products through private distributors, and the creation of a new Office of Alcohol Beverages Enforcement, which would have taken over the current duties from the state's Department of Revenue.
The bill would make changes to current alcohol regulations by 1) increasing the number of Class B licenses issued, which allows retail sales of spirits and wine for consumption on premises, and 2) double the production cap for brewpubs, and 3) allow wineries to sell their products past 9PM, which current law permits. The bill would also allow distilleries to open distillpubs.
The bill was introduced by State Representative Gary Tauchen (R-Bonduel) and is co-sponsored by Representatives Shannon Zimmerman (R-River Falls), Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield), John Macco (R-Ledgeview), and State Senator Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls).
WPT Weekly Member Poll Results:
Foxconn, local employment numbers, Apple ordered to pay UW-Madison, Reince Priebus resigns, and the Wisconsin State Fair
Overall, how do you feel about the Foxconn deal?
Corporate Welfare!!!...Special (financial, taxation, environmental, regulatory ETC.) Rules, created just for Foxconn....Wonder what else is included in this?...
The devil is in the details.
Giving them too much, especially overlooking the environmental regulations.
I think it will pull folks from out of state where we need to hold communities together.
The economic growth potential all around is the attractive part of the deal, even if the state may owe the company money in a year, the amount of money just the large work force will put back into the state's economy and the local area that will be given the best prize in the whole scheme of things will out weight the price tag. It seems the state has been dumped on by other companies in the past that have promised so many things, and after all was said and done, the Wisconsin tax payer was left out in the cold. Wisconsin better hold on to all the "gifts" until there are 13,000 people employed full time and with all the benefits.
We need to be sure the incentives are air-tight in terms of performance mentrics.
Will Foxconn follow through on their deal.
We need the jobs, and we need the revenue, and we need the jobs. Bring it.
My questions...do we have enough people that want to work?
It should surprise NO ONE that in 5-10 years, we'll look back on this deal and see what fools we were. The politicians can't scrape together enough money for roads, but when they see a big political win, they have no problem spending taxpayer money. Mark it down: The Foxconn deal will nto come anywhere near 13,000 jobs, and will cost taxpayers huge amounts per job. It's astounding how the GOP can't stop themselves from this corporate giveaway.
Local unemployment numbers were released. Overall, how would you rank unemployment in your immediate community?
"Now Hiring" signs all over the area.
The service industries cannot find workers, I see help wanted signs in all retail stores and restaurants.
Unfortunately, there are many younger people in our area that are not willing to work the 40 plus hours a week many of the jobs require. The younger members of our workforce have become soft and lack the sense of pride in their work and the drive to better themselves.
Our community has become the new home of choice for folks from Milwaukee, Racine, and Kenosha as we have low housing prices. But these folks don't want to work and have no work experience. That's our so-called labor pool. These folks and others who cannot pass a drug test.
I am not up following employment in our area. You don't hear people complaining about not getting hired.
Plenty of jobs to be had, but too many govt. programs that prevent people from requiring to work. Disability is way over abused.
Lots of low paying jobs. TOO MANY low paying jobs. Wages are stagnant yet. And $15 minimum wage is NOT the answer.
Not a qualified workforce available, poor work ethic.
A lot can not pass drug tests. Lot of good paying jobs in Dodge county. Just can not get people to want to work with all the government and charity hand outs.
Suburban unemployment is nearly non-existent. Cities + education = plenty of jobs.
We cannot find enough help to keep up with demand! If someone isn't working it's cause they don't want to and want to live on the system.
Apple was ordered to pay UW-Madison $506 million for patent infringement. Do you own any Apple products?
iPad and phone
iPhone and hate it- too controlling every time I install an update, it changes my settings on me.
I PHONE, I PAD
Apple is a foolish, luxury brand, people paying ungodly sums of for stylish products
Apple products suck. Samsung is awesome!
Reince Priebus will no longer serve as the White House Chief of Staff. If you have an opinion, do you think this was a...
90% in Washington (politics) are more crooked than Lombard Street!
Trump needs help.
Mr. Priebus is very smart, talented man but Trump needs someone like Kelly to stop the chaos.
No problem with Reince Priebus personally, but the Trump White House is a joke, and I'm a republican. The main reason it is a joke is because the "CEO" of the White House is a hoke, won't hold my nose and vote that clown ever again!
IT WILL BE INTERESTING TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS FROM HERE.
Does it really matter to the avg. American?
I am beginning to believe that people in office - or in Mr. Priebus' case, in a position - for too long lose their ability to listen to and respect their constituency. I think he got ousted because he is too much "politician" and not enough "Representative of the Citizens." Very good move.
He was too political and didn't have control of the White House staff.
The Trump Whitehouse is a clown show. Probably good for Reince to cleanse himself of it sooner rather than later...and maybe, for the sake of the country, Kelly can return the government to normalcy. Maybe.
Going? No. Expensive and scheduling conflict. Been there? Yes. Enjoy local Fairs.
We have shown Herefords there since 1961. Granddaughter is showing in Jr. and open classes. Grew up in West Allis- the community has changed.
Went to Columbia County Fair. Wish more people would.
Too many people, too far away.
Too far, I go to local fair.
Yes. Island noodles.
Never been there, too far to travel in terrible traffic, unsafe area and too expensive. I'm too used to my rural area and have no desire to go to a big city for a "country fair." Give me my local county fairs and I'll be happy with them.
Not going this year. Won't go on the weekend, too many people. No time to go during the week this year due to a camping trip.
A great activity, but I'm not going this year.
I have been there back in the 1990s, but can no longer walk for any length of time. Don't attend any fairs any more.
Have not been there and won't go. Too far of a drive from the north country.
Never been. Can't go. Cannot afford it. I run a small business- everything thinks I make millions of bucks clear every year- But I don't know how I pay the bills at the end of the month. Who can afford the State Fair???
Went years ago. Too many people. We go to county fair.
Too far from Eau Claire...have other things to do.
No, have to work and nothing drawing me there.
We attend the State Fair only about once every 5 years. It is getting so much of a business, less about the kids. Would rather go to a local county fair.
Not going. Too many people for me.
Not going this year. Had children show cattle years ago and last year went for a century farm award. Still is plenty far to travel though.
Our company gives us two free tickets to the State Fair. Usually my wife takes the kids some afternoon, but said she was going to skip it this year. It's too junky.
Too far and too expensive.
Wisconsin's bankruptcies lowest in a decade
The Badger State saw the lowest level of bankruptcy filings in a decade for the first half of 2017, with many saying this is an indicator of a better economy and jobs climate in the state.
8,921 bankruptcy petitions were filed in federal court from January through June, which was the lowest since 2007, right before the "Great Recession," which had 7,642 filings. Filings were also down 1.5% from 2016, which had 9,060 filings. Most of the filings in Wisconsin were Chapter 7, which wipes clean debts for individuals, including credit card debt, medical debt, and utility payments.
Nationally, the first half of the year saw increases of 0.2%, which also indicates that Wisconsin is faring much better economically than much of the nation. From January to June 399,454 bankruptcy filings were made.
Farming costs remained stagnant in 2016
Running a farm in 2016 cost the same as it did in 2015 for the average-sized operation in Wisconsin, according to the USDA. The total state farm expenditures in the Cheese State came in at about $10.9 billion in both years, which is down a whopping 16 percent from 2014, when farmers dolled out $14 billion to stay in business.
As a portion of operations, feed costs were the biggest production expense for the average farmer, costing $1.95 billion, up about four percent from the year prior, and sitting at about one-fifth of the average total expense of a farm.
The largest decrease for farmers, according to agriculture experts and economists, was "miscellaneous capital expenses," which fell by 50 percent. In 2014, those costs increased by 250 percent. Property taxes also decreased, as well as fuel, tractors and other machinery. Other decreases were from seeds, plants, and chemicals.
The average farm in Wisconsin spent $158,806 in 2016, with expenses averaging $28,384 on feed, $22,562 on farm services, $10,335 on fertilizer, and $15,575 on labor.