News from the Capitol and around Wisconsin
We hope that your week is off to a great start.
This week's Capitol Report starts off on a somber note, as we mourn the loss of State Representative Bob Gannon (R-West Bend), who died suddenly last week at the age of 58 years old. Our thoughts are with his family, friends, and colleagues during this difficult time.
This week's Capitol Report will bring you the latest news regarding Foxconn and the recent developments regarding their new location. We will also bring you up to speed on the I-94 East-West project, and news related to WEDC's new workforce development partnership with the UW System, as well as WEDC's new position to attract new talent in Wisconsin. The report will also touch on some good news from the DOT, and a proposal from lawmakers to regarding credit freezes.
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,
Last week, we finally learned that Foxconn will build in Mount Pleasant. Later on the Capitol Report, you will read a bit more about the specifics of the location, and what the first phase of construction will become.
In that article, you will also see the amount of money for which local taxpayers are expected to be on the hook. Spoiler Alert: Somewhere between the $100 to $400 million range. Many small and rural towns in Wisconsin don't even have a property value base worth that much. Even before Foxconn and talking with various WPT members, I have always maintained that economic development is great for an area, great for a tax base, and great for quality of life. But I have also said that I think private industry needs to survive on its own, without asking for local property taxpayers to foot the bill. I usually say that in relation to the overuse of TIF, but the same applies to this scenario.
Property taxpayers pay for everything. Seriously. Step outside and take a look around. In most small villages, towns, and cities around Wisconsin, property taxpayers are responsible for the vast majority of infrastructure and services that are provided to everybody. Most of the time, property taxpayers don't complain, but they want to know why the state asks them to do more and more- fund a state forestry program, fund a state technical school system- while they are still on the hook for everything local.
So, I ask you, is $100 million too much to ask? Is $400 million to much to ask? Yes, there's a big difference, but the numbers are both exactly the same in consequence. Because no matter which NINE FIGURE sum of money local property taxpayers are expected to pay, it will state take a generation or two to pay it off. I'm not saying it's bad, I'm just hoping the risk pays off.
I also wanted to touch briefly on WPT's next newsletter. Last week, I finished writing my portion of our popular periodical, and now we are in the process of putting the finishing touches on it.
We are all very excited to outline the state budget, talk about upcoming legislation, and make you aware of some incredible state resources for farmers and small businesses. We are also excited to talk about our agenda moving forward, and why it's good news for you and your family, business, or both.
As always, if you have any questions, comments, ideas, or concerns, feel free to reach out to me at any point directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you, and I hope you all have a wonderful week.
FOXCONN CHOOSES MOUNT PLEASANT
With much speculation since the announcement in the summer, Foxconn Technology Group last week announced that it had chosen Mount Pleasant for the location of its planned LCD display panel manufacturing facility.
After much speculation, the company now confirms that it plans to build a $10 billion facility east of I-94 between Braun Road and 1st Street (Hwy KR). Also, the land between Highway 11 and Braun Road has been pegged for a future development, as well. The first facility will include a crystal display plant, packaging for LCD, a molding, tool and die facility, and an assembly operation.
The company said that it chose Racine County for multiple reasons, among which were "it's talented, hard-working workforce, which is a major competitive advantage for this region." They also said their plans would amount to a "robust 8K+5G ecosystem in the United States to meet future needs for the most advanced display technology."
It's estimated that Mount Pleasant and Racine County together will shell out $100 to $150 million in local incentives, however as some publications point out, if the local deal balloons the way the state deal did, local taxpayers could be on the hook for $270 to $410 million.
I-94 EAST-WEST EXPANSION PLANS ABANDONED
Governor Walker last week sent a letter to Department of Transportation Secretary David Ross, saying that the administration is abandoning plans for the reconstruction of I-94 East-West between Milwaukee's Marquette and Zoo Interchanges.
In his letter dated September 29th, the governor said that the legislature would not likely fund the project any time soon, and cited a federal lawsuit that has been brought by the NAACP, Sierra Club, and Milwaukee Inner-City Congregations Allied for Hope, who are suing to have public transportation expansion plans included in the project. Governor Walker officially asked the federal government to rescind its approval of the project.
DOT Secretary called the litigation an unnecessary expense, especially if there are no funds to move forward on the project to begin with. DOT has spent $20 million in project plans already.
Milwaukee-area business group MMAC supported the expansion, with their government affairs VP calling the decision shortsighted, and saying that drivers won't fully realize the benefit of the recent Marquette and Zoo Interchange rebuilds without this piece being included.
WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT PARTNERSHIP FORGED BETWEEN WEDC AND UW SYSTEM
As the state is realizing a critical shortage of workers and an equally startling workforce forecast, the announcement last week between the UW System and WEDC could not have come at a better time.
In a joint effort to address those workforce needs, the two state announced the creation of a new position that will lead and coordinate statewide efforts to attract and retain talent. The new talent initiatives director will work with WEDC and the UW System's Office of Economic Development to help align local, regional, and statewide talent and workforce initiatives.
"Wisconsin is experiencing its lowest unemployment levels and highest levels of labor participation in decades, which means it's more important that ever to attract and retain a strong talent pool," said Tricia Braun, deputy secretary and COO of WEDC. "WEDC and the UW System are already working with our partners around the state on workforce development issues, and dedicating one person to coordinate these efforts will clearly strengthen that collaboration."
UW System President Ray Cross said that about 85 percent of UW System students stay in Wisconsin, and this new role will help keep those graduates connected with businesses.
Some of the duties of the new position will include communicating talent needs to various Wisconsin industries, assist with WEDC grant recipients or sustaining successful pilot projects focused on talent attraction, work with the UW System Business Council, and more.
CREDIT FREEZE PROPOSAL BEING CONSIDERED
Coming off the heels of a large data breach by credit-monitoring group Equifax earlier this year that breached the data of over 100 million Americans, a group of state lawmakers led by first-term Senator Patrick Testin (R-Stevens Point) would address a large concern from many consumers.
Currently, if an individual feels that their identity or personal information has been breached, that person is able to freeze the ability for new credit lines to be opened in their name. The problem, according to Senator Testin, is that the big credit reporting agencies usually charge a fee to do so. A fee is also applied when the freeze is removed. It usually averages to about $10 per fee.
But that "adds up" according to the Senator, which is why the bill would prohibit the agencies from implementing the fee. The legislation is currently being circulated for co-sponsors. The original law that allowed credit bureaus to charge the fee was also introduced by a bipartisan group of lawmakers and signed into law by Democrat Jim Doyle in 2006.
JUDGE GREEN LIGHTS HOME BAKER SALES TO CONSUMERS
According to a Lafayette Circuit Court judge last week, home bakers are permitted to sell their goods directly to consumers, and any restricting on their selling is unconstitutional.
Up until last week, Wisconsin remained one of only two states that did not allow a home baker to sell their goods directly to the public without the need for a food processing license. The Department of Justice said that bakers are now allowed to sell without any license.
The ruling comes after a bit of misunderstanding between the state's DOJ and three home baker plaintiffs from a lawsuit, where the judge ruled that restricting their sales is unconstitutional. Since he did not expressly state that his ruling applied to all home bakers, the state DOJ continued to enforce the law. His clarified his ruling last Thursday, granting to all home bakers their ability to sell their goods.
WPT WEEKLY MEMBER POLL RESULTS
Wisconsin tax burden below national average · Should Gov. Walker vote for mining · Proposal allowing unlimited wage garnishment · Bill being circulated allowing development on state wetlands without permit
Wisconsin's tax burden (as a percentage of income) has dropped below the national average. Thinking back through the past couple of decades, do you feel that less of your income overall is consumed by taxes?
All of the above
I don't mind paying taxes, that being said, I want value for those taxes and transparency. We should know exactly what we are paying for!
Our income tax structure is set up against a citizen seeking to sell a business at the end of their entrepreneurial career.
Health Care eats up the difference
Income tax; should be a flat percentage across the board
Property tax is the least fair
Property tax has the biggest impact on my finances
I live in a property rich community, so my property taxes are quite high, but I don't dislike them. My school district is the best in the state, my garbage is picked up, my village is safe and well maintained. Wisconsin's tax burden is lower because we've systematically reduced public employee compensation. All those tax cuts means those employees don't bring home that money. It's not magic. That class of people pay for all the tax cuts.
In 1998, then-Representative Scott Walker voted in favor of banning sulfide-producing mines in Wisconsin, a law which some republicans are now trying to lift in order to allow this type of mining again. If you were Governor Walker, would you...
Would need more info on the impact on the environment.
What changed? What does opinion have to do with it. It's as bad for the environment now as it ever was.
Ways of mining have changed since 1998.
I don't know about the rest of you, but I like my Wisconsin and don't want to see polluted dead zones.
I don't know an answer.
Need more information, but don't like the fact this is already political because Walker voted against it 20 years ago. Tired of progressives always claiming to be forward thinking unless they can make political points by looking into those who oppose them past. They never allow their pasts to be examined, that is done and over, according to them. Tired of the double standard the progressives are constantly hammering away at.
I said do not sign it...but I think it should still be revisited...and reprise WHY it was banned...and see if there are now solutions that will eliminate the issues that brought the ban into effect.
Methods to prevent pollution have improved.
The only thing that should matter is science. Did the science change? No? Then veto.
A bill in the legislature would allow for unlimited wage garnishment periods by collection agencies. Good idea or bad idea?
Don't fix what's not broken.
No. Keep the vultures at bay.
Need to know more. I have had to garnish wages in the past and had to work with the taxing agency because the person would not have been able to survive on what little he would have taken home.
Unlimited may not be the way to go.
Have had employees wages garnished, great idea, too confusing with the 13 week rule, and unnecessary paperwork, only providing a paper shuffler a job somewhere, that's how gov't provides more jobs with all their silly forms to do this and to do that and get paid gov't salary with a nice retirement package...need I say more?
If someone owes someone else money and the court agrees, then the garnishment should stand until collected. I don't have to keep applying for a car loan every year!
When we send things to debt collection, it basically means we don't get anything in return. We'd be better off to have a tax credit for every bad debt in our small business...We don't have a lot, but they DO hit the bottom line. A lot of folks do pay their debts to us if we can contact them and set up an agreement. This is the same for the debt collection agencies. Getting any more money over time is better than zero.
We have done this for customers who have a judgement against. It's such a pain to keep refiling when there's clearly no doubt he owes us the money.
It's time for debts to be paid.
13 weeks is not long enough but unlimited time is not a good idea. Maybe 26 weeks.
Don't trust credit companies to stop garnishment when debt is paid.
We need to live within our means, including the government.
Debt collectors can be very creepy. Would make me nervous to let them have more power.
Lawmakers are circulating a bill that would allow for developing on state wetlands without a permit. Good idea or bad idea?
Wetlands play a major role in the health of this planet. Development is playing with fire. Lawmakers need to think about what this world will be like for their descendants.
By reading your comments, they would still have to replace wetlands somewhere else.
DNR has been way too crazy and once again all the extra hoops to jump thru are only giving more paper shufflers jobs that are mindless.
No matter who develops, there should be a permit.
When Highway 29 was converted into 4 lanes, a mess of wetlands were taken out and moved to make room for the highway. Now, it's just an eyesore along the highway. It would have been nicer to leave the existing alone and go around it.
Unsure of the flooding impacts?
Wetland development should be regulated to a point.
What we need is a more realistic definition of a wetland site.
Fewer regulations usually better.
Current wetland regulations are too burdensome.
Yeah, it's probably fine. Wisconsin has a massive amount of unused land. Wetland protection is somewhat bogus.
LAST MONTH SAFEST SEPTEMBER ON WISCONSIN ROADS SINCE WWII
According to preliminary data from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, 41 people died in traffic crashes last month. While still a very sad number, it was also the safest September in terms of traffic deaths since the end of World War II.
Traffic fatalities were six fewer than September of 2016 and 16 fewer compared to the five-year average for the month of September.
A total of 438 people have died in Wisconsin crashes in the first nine months of 2017, including 65 motorcycle accidents, 44 pedestrians, and three bicyclists. That amounts to one less than the first nine months of 2016, and 19 higher than the five-year average.
David Pabst, who is the director of the DOT's Bureau of Transportation Safety said that the potential for inclement weather and increased deer activity is higher heading into the fall season, and with decreased hours of daylight.
DOT last week also advised motorists that you should not swerve for deer, and that if you spot one deer, there are typically more, so be cautious.
BIPARTISAN LAWMAKERS PUSH FOR GREEN ALERT SYSTEM
We have Amber Alerts for when youngsters go missing, and we have Silver Alerts for when a senior citizen goes missing. But what about when a veteran goes missing? A bipartisan group of lawmakers are pushing to add a third alert, known as the Green Alert, aimed at triggering law enforcement of a missing veteran, and assisting in public awareness.
Senator Patrick Testin (R-Stevens Point), along with Representative Joel Kleefisch (R-Oconomowoc) and Senator LaTonya Johnson (D-Milwaukee) have authored the Corey Adams Searchlight Act, named for a Milwaukee Air Force Veteran who passed away earlier this year after going missing for 18 days.
"By creating the Green Alert, we are honoring Corey's memory and working to prevent other tragedies," said Senator Johnson. "Our veterans have sacrificed so much, yet they don't always receive the support that they need to manage the challenges of service-related health conditions. This bill gives us the tools we need to offer aid when a veteran goes missing."
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 20 veterans commit suicide each day. While veterans make up less than nine percent of the population, they account for 19 percent of all suicides in America.
"Veterans volunteer to make the ultimate sacrifice," said Rep. Kleefisch. "We should do everything possible to make sure we take care of them when they are in need in any way."
The proposal has gained support from several military groups, including the Military Order of the Purple Heart and the VFW. It is available for co-sponsorship until October 11th.
CHEESE PRODUCTION UP IN AUGUST
According to the USDA, Wisconsin produced 272.2 million pounds of cheese in August, meaning it was up 1.5 percent from last August, but down 0.8 percent from the month prior. Wisconsin has now produced more cheese products on a year-to-year basis for 36 months consecutively, except for December 2016.
1.03 billion pounds of cheese were produced in the US, which was also up 2.3 percent.
74.9 million pounds of American cheese were produced, 48.6 million pounds of cheddar, and 94.5 million pounds of Mozzarella. Dry Whey was up a whopping 20 percent from last year, at 30.5 million pounds.
GRAY WOLF DE-LISTING ONE STEP CLOSER
A bill in Congress aimed at allowing states to manage their own gray wolf populations by removing their court-ordered endangered status is now one step closer.
The House Committee on Natural Resources passed the measure last week, which would force the Department of the Interior to remove protections for the gray wolf under the Endangered Species Act, in Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, and portions of North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.
Wisconsin Senators Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin, along with nearly all Wisconsin's congressional representatives have been making a group effort for this legislation to pass. Data from the Wisconsin DNR shows that gray wolf populations have grown about seven percent in the last year.