We hope that your work week is off to a productive start, and that you stayed safe in the massive snow storm that is moving across Wisconsin today and tonight. This is also a great opportunity to remind our members to check on their elderly and disabled neighbors who might need assistance during these cold and snowy days.
Below, we will introduce you to this week's Member of the Week, outline some of the top headlines from the past week, and get you up to speed on legislation.
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,
PROPERTY TAXPAYER OF THE WEEK
This week, we introduce you to our friends at Agromatic, Inc. and owner Dean Birschbach, who has owned the company since 2010.
But telling you that the company was purchased in 2010 simply doesn't do it justice, since Agromatic began more than 110 years ago in 1898 as Klinzing Manufacturing in St. Cloud, Wisconsin. August F. Klinzing was the founder, and was known as an important innovator, and inventor of early barn equipment.
The company, then-A.F. Klinzing Co. was owned and managed by a Dave Hoppman for 38 years, when in 2010 the company was purchased by our friend Dean Birschbach.
Dean grew up on a dairy farm in Lamartine, Wisconsin, and attended Rosendale High School before heading over to Moraine Park Tech in Fond du Lac to complete the Farm Management short course.
We asked Dean about the largest challenge in his industry today, especially when dairy farms are struggling quite a bit.
"Our industry is directly affected by the dairy industry, and currently the milk price is at a 25 year low, which you can image affects us because dairymen are reluctant to spend and it also has forced some dairymen to stop farming completely. We also have the challenge of educating the dairymen on why the products we sell can truly help them and their cows," he told us.
But the challenge gets even more complicated, according to Dean.
"It is also a challenge to get the agri business to promote the dairymen's products. Lastly the number of local farms as dwindled year after year," he added.
Agromatic currently employs 46 people, and Dean said he takes pride in having a happy customer when the job is complete.
"Having a great group of people that work for Agromatic," is also another source of pride.
Dean tells us that he pays close attention to tax laws, environmental issues that impact farmers, and health insurance issues that impact his employees."
On a personal level, Dean has been married to his wife, Kim, for 27 years, and they have three wonderful daughters. Dean enjoys collecting replica tractors, "the majority being Oliver," he said. He also enjoys the Packers, Brewers, and playing golf.
His favorite place in Wisconsin? "Visiting my cottage on the lake," he said.
As far as our organization goes? "I see WPT as a voice to help lobby and support small business against the large government," he added. "We have belonged for seven years."
Last week, we saw a much different tone coming out of Madison.
Governor Walker, as you will read below, has said he wants $200 million to strengthen Obamacare in Wisconsin, he wants health insurance coverage for those with preexisting conditions guaranteed, he wants more money in rural schools and to allow some local governments to raise their taxes by as much as $700 per pupil, and wants to see the embattled Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake facilities closed and replaced much quicker than he originally signaled.
Why such a change in tone? You probably guessed- reelection. But not by choice. Last week, State Representative Adam Jarchow (R-Balsam Lake) lost the special election for State Senate, to fill now-DATCP Secretary Sheila Harsdorf's seat. Governor Walker on social media said that this stunning election defeat is a "wake up call for Republicans."
This week, we will hear from Governor Walker at the annual State of the State address, where much pomp and circumstance is orchestrated as the governor delivers his speech to both chambers of the legislature, the Wisconsin Supreme Court, members of the public, and more. We will hear that Wisconsin is moving forward, that property taxes in 2017 was lower than 2010, and that we now have a higher-than-projected budget surplus of $385 million. We will also hear about new accountability measures for those on public assistance, to reign in fraud and abuse, and ensure than people who are able to work are participating in Wisconsin's workforce, which recently matched unemployment for the lowest on record ever.
That's all great news, but the flowery language often steers attention away from the troubles that many ordinary Wisconsinites still face .Let us not forget:
Roads are still crumbling, some schools are still struggling, farmers aren't seeing any relief, access to internet is still a dream in many communities, and small Main Street businesses are still being bested by cheaper big box alternatives. There's still much work to be done.
This is not to say that WPT and our members aren't appreciative of the many strides that this state and this administration have made on behalf of those who work for a living, but keep your eye on the ball as the much-anticipated fourth re-election bid for Governor Walker gets underway.
As always, I hope you've found this article to be informative and helpful. If you have anything you want to add or discuss, just reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org directly and I'd be glad to assist, or call (608) 255-7473.
NEWS FROM THE CAPITOL
AND AROUND WISCONSIN
BUDGET SURPLUS GROWS BY $138 MILLION
Wisconsin's nonpartisan budget office released a report last week that shows our state's finances are doing better than expected. How much better? $138 million better.
The original projections for this point in time was that our bank would hold a leftover surplus of $248 million. But the report now puts our extra funds at $385 million, and amounts to about 1% of the state's annual spending. That's the amount of money it takes to run the state government for about three days.
While these numbers might change over time, it gives the Governor and legislative Republicans a little bit of relief coming off of a shocking defeat in western Wisconsin last week. Nonetheless, Sen. Alberta Darling called our economy strong, and cited consumer confidence, and larger state revenues.
Democrats warned, however, that if the country slips into recession, which most economists have agreed is likely, the state will see slowed growth, and thus a shortfall.
WALKER CALLS FOR STRICTER WORK REQUIREMENTS, DRUG TESTING FOR THOSE ON PUBLIC ASSISTANCE
Proposed reforms by Governor Walker and legislative republicans would increase work requirements for individuals receiving state benefits such as food stamps, and Medicaid, and it would drug test residents of subsidized housing, along with mandated Medicaid recipients pay child support.
Walker last week stopped in three cities to tout the plan, saying that his focus is getting able-bodied adults into the workforce, citing the 3.0 unemployment rate, which is tied for the lowest ever.
The reforms would include require participation in a work training program if you are on FoodShare, increasing the work search requirements for Foodshare from 20 hours to 30 hours per week, and requiring all participants to pass a drug test, and enter treatment if they do not pass the test.
Most controversial is that Wisconsin was the first to propose, and would be one of the first to implement, a plan that requires able-bodied recipients of Medicaid to work or perform work searches. Two weeks ago, President Donald Trump's administration gave the green light to states wishing to do so.
GOV. WANTS $200 MILLION TO STABILIZE OBAMACARE MARKET IN WISCONSIN
In somewhat of a shocking move, Governor Walker is proposing to use $200 million in state and federal cash to stabilize the Obamacare market and to hold down premiums paid by those on the exchange.
Governor Walker is looking to tackle some relatively large healthcare-related issues, including making SeniorCare a permanently authorized program in Wisconsin, though he once tried to reduce funding for the program. He and Republic colleagues have cited Washington's inability to act on several major healthcare issues, and said that the state should take it upon itself to lead by example.
The Obamacare premium plan would require $50 million in state dollars and $150 million in federal dollars to help hold down Obamacare market premiums, which are the dollars insurers charge to consumers. More than 200,000 people are on the marketplace in Wisconsin, most of them receive subsidies.
Wisconsin would use savings from Medicaid in Wisconsin and issue payments known as reinsurance, with the hopes of also luring back private insurers who have left the state in recent years.
WALKER WANTS PRE-EXISTING CONDITION GUARANTEE
In somewhat of another slight deviation, Governor Walker is calling for a law to guarantee that people with pre-existing conditions can't lose or be denied healthcare.
Under Obamacare, those protections already existed. Walker said that the state acting now will ensure that individuals are protected from any changes made at the federal level in regards to healthcare.
Democrats quickly bounced on the idea, admitting they would likely vote for the plan, but reminding voters that this has been their plan all along. State Senator Jon Erpenbach accused Governor Walker of not speaking up when President Trump tried to repeal pre-existing provisions in federal law.
Regardless, the Walker administration pushed on, offering other healthcare-related legislation, in the hopes of strengthening markets and providing increased access to Wisconsinites.
WISCONSIN UNEMPLOYMENT TIED FOR LOWEST EVER
Wisconsin's unemployment rate dipped to 3.0% in December, which matches the lowest on record level of unemployment ever in Wisconsin. The state also set records for the total number of people employed.
Additionally, as the national labor market intensifies, Wisconsin's leaders assured residents that job training programs and efforts would be increased to match pace- a major economic problem in Wisconsin currently, and expected to grow by massive proportions as the population's ages continue to increase.
The report also showed that Wisconsin added 40,200 non-farm jobs and 43,500 private sector jobs from December of 2016 to December of 2017. The state gained 1,300 jobs from November to December.
COUNTY AND STATE SALES TAX REVENUES INCREASE
Sales tax revenues for county and state government increased in 2017, according to the nonpartisan Wisconsin Policy Forum (formerly Public Policy Forum, who recently merged with the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance to form the Wisconsin Policy Forum).
According to their report, the revenue growth is likely due to economic growth in Wisconsin, and citred historic lows in unemployment, and consumer confidence.
State sales tax revenues climbed 3.1 percent to $5.2 billion in the last fiscal year (July 2016-July 2017), and added increases to the state's general fund, which consists of sales tax, income tax, corporate tax, and excise taxes.
Counties in Wisconsin are allowed by the state to tack an additional half percent onto the state's already 5% sales tax. The counties that do collect the 0.5% sales tax collected around $377.5 million during the 2017 calendar year, which is a 6 percent increase over 2016.
WEEKLY MEMBER POLL RESULTS
Homeowners whose land is being seized via eminent domain claim that it's unconstitutional. Do you believe that eminent domain should be (also) used for private interests, rather than only for the public good?
Work hard, buy land (the one thing that won't go away and is limited in availability) only to have it taken away? This is not the american way.
Plenty of open land for Foxconn to use. Leave the homeowners and businesses alone.
I feel eminent domain is abused sometimes.
NOBODY should be able to "take" your property.
I had to vote that I Was on the fence. I am not in favor of Eminent Domain for anything. Period.
As long as they are receiving more than a fair price for the property.
Property rights vs public good is tough. Better to err on individuals right.
Why should a private entity benefit from someone else's loss? If they want the property pay a fair price and be done with it. Our state has given to much to FOXCONN already.
The citizenry should be OUTRAGED that eminent domain is used for private enterprises. But they won't be if it's not their land being taken.
I don't think they should com ein our state and want any land that is around their place they are building not right
President Trump's administration has given permission to states wishing to add work requirements to Medicaid recipients. Good idea or bad idea?
I am sure there are a few cases where it is not possible, but yes, if a person is at all able to contribute something to polite society, then have them do so if polite society is going to contribute to them.
Some special needs children require medical care (appointments ETC) that interfere with the parents holding a long term normal work schedule...when FMLA runs out the parents could lose that job trying to ensure (child) receives necessary care.
I know people who are supposedly disabled, but geee you would not believe what they are capable of doing with their spare time.
Same should apply to welfare and unemployment. One can't go anywhere today without seeing help wanted signs.
Good idea. There are too many freeloaders who take advantage of welfare.
There are requirements to work, should be requirements for benefits as well.
Great idea. Too many leaching off the government who shouldn't be.
It's about time. I always felt a person should work if able and receive government aid as a subsidy to support lively.
It IS a good idea for able-bodied poeple.
I do think it's good - but there are those with issues who aren't "bad" enough to get aid. IE a couple I am acquainted with has a young mother who has severe back issues. She can't do laundry, because if she does, her back goes out and she can barely walk for WEEKS. But doctors say there's nothing "medically" wrong with her... What do you do for families like that with legitimate issues, but "medicine" says you don't fit into their pigeon hole for help?
Gives the basic skills to work and hold a job and take care of themselves
I'm sure very few take advantage of a well intended program
Honestly, I don't know. What do non-partisan experts think.
If you are able than you should work to get any benefit.
If they are able to work, why not.
It seems like a case by case situation. How much will it cost to implement it.
Would you support a grant program that would help alleviate the costs to farmers for donating their surplus or unsold crops to food banks?
Sounds like a good idea on the surface, but it should certainly be efficient. If it ends up costing more than its worth, is not the grant money then being wasted? Sometimes it really is cheaper to put the excess back into the soil to feed next year's crop. Perhaps next year's crop will be needed more than this year's surplus. Perhaps a more efficient way would be to use the grant money to buy from the growers produce actually needed by the food banks.
Margins (profit) are already squeezed, many small farmers are near giving up.
But, just so everyone is offered to apply for it, it always seems those who really don't need farm welfare benefit the most from these things, just like the federal farm programs.
Money is spent on way worse things, this would be helping both farmers and those in need win win
Sounds good but can I see more paper work
No one should ever throw away good food.
Not sure exactly what we are talking about. Is it a semi load of corn, a tanker of milk, or a couple boxes of carrots and onions.
The cost could be more than the surplus crop is worth.
Give the farmers all the help they can get.
Governor Walker has been traveling the state, touting the Youth Apprenticeship Program, which links high school kids with employers. Would you support expanding this program?
It may be a good program, but I would not support extending the program until we can see beyond a shadow of a doubt that it actually works. I'm not sure about industries in my area that need employees. I could use some help on my farm, but I can't afford it...
Construction + Assembly/manufacturing
It's unfortunate but children today must learn the value of hard work in the schools. In many cases they don't seem to be getting it at home.
There is a crying need for skilled workers. This should help.
Yes, Youths today think college is the answer but do not realize there many more jobs to be had then sitting behind a desk
Electricians. Plumbers. Carpenters. Concrete professionals. Flooring installers.
Skilled labor is a shortage; electricians, plumbers, mechanics.
Seems like a good idea, not all kids go to college
Most businesses need good help in our area. So yes.
All industries need employees that are reliable and understand the 40 hour work week means at least 40 hours.
I think all industries need employees, good program for kids.
One WPT member suggested asking what your favorite "warm and yummy" foods are during the winter for keeping warm? What dish or food is your favorite during the winter? Are all homemade meals created equal, or are some better in cold weather? Share your responses below!
Any kind of hot soup goes well with cold weather. Why can't we get our legislature to do something useful for once and have them ban winter?
No particular favorite...just home cooked meals.
Chili, split pea with ham, actually, any soup is great in the winter!!!
Chicken and dumpling soup.
Chili, scalloped potatoes and ham
Chicken noodle soup and chocolate chip cookies
BEEF- it's what's for dinner.
Warm creamy soup of any kind.
Chili, hearty soups, apple custard cake, pie stews
Chili and my wife's spaghetti
Tator tot hotdish
Lasagna and any home made soup
Warm and yummy foods begin with and end with Arby's
Chili-stew, and pots of soup
Chicken noodle soup, homemade and homemade bread