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Conservatively Speaking

State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.

Congratulations David Ozburn!

Eagle Scouts


David Ozburn’s Eagle Scout ceremony was held on Sunday, January 4, 2009.

My office prepared a state citation that I presented to David Ozburn at the special ceremony. It reads:

Whereas, David John Ozburn is a member of the Boy Scouts of America Troop 314, and through dedication and commitment, attained the rank of Eagle Scout; and

Whereas, David John Ozburn’s Eagle Scout project included constructing a park shelter at Ken Windl Park, providing shade and rain protection for park attendees; and

Whereas, David John Ozburn attended Powderhorn Leadership Training, earned 35 merit badges, and served his troop in the leadership positions of Assistant Patrol Leader, Patrol Leader, Senior Patrol Leader, and Troop Scribe; and

Whereas, David John Ozburn graduated in the top three percent of the class at Franklin High School, and was a member of the Franklin High School Football Team, Track and Field Team, served as the Robotics Club Pit Crew Chief, and continues to volunteer as Robotics Club mentor; and

Whereas, David John Ozburn is a member of Saint James Parish, and a freshman at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, majoring in nuclear engineering, employed at Pop’s Club, the largest Food Service dining room on the Madison campus, and is a member of the American Chemical Society; 

Now Therefore, the members of the Wisconsin State Senate on the motion of Senator Mary Lazich, commend David John Ozburn for outstanding dedication and service to scouting.  David John Ozburn is further commended for successfully completing the requirements necessary to attain the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest honorable rank awarded by the Boy Scouts of America.

More taxes are not the solution

Taxes


Did you see the editorial page in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Sunday, December 21, 2008?

An editorial on taxes starts out explaining, as two members of the Editorial Board write:

Property taxes in Wisconsin are among the highest in the nation, and there is every reason to think that anger over this fact will become a much hotter political issue as the population ages and those aging homeowners - who form a reliable voting bloc - increasingly feel the hurt.Wisconsin ranked ninth in median property taxes paid in 2007, according to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation. The state was seventh when those taxes were ranked as a percentage of income and third as a percentage of home values.”

No argument there. The documentation that Wisconsin is one of the highest taxed states in the country is indisputable.

That is where my agreement with the editorial writers ends.  As the editorial continues, the writers offer solutions in the form of tax shifting and increasing one tax after another.  The people, especially homeowners I represent, do not want taxes increased, they do not want taxes shifted only to be paid via another tax, and they do not want clever new taxes.  Taxes are not reduced by increasing other taxes.

The way to reduce taxes is to reduce spending. 

Read the editorial.

The fastest-growing states

Taxes


After the 2010 census is completed, states in the Midwest and Northeast are expected to lose seats in Congress, with states in the South and West picking up more seats. That’s according to the Associated Press (AP) that reported on projections by two firms that analyze apportionment.

Here are the fastest growing states with the largest numerical population gain from July 1, 2007 to July 1, 2008:


1) Texas (483,542)

2) California (379,132)

3) North Carolina (180,820)

4) Georgia (162,447)

5) Arizona (146,759)

6) Florida (128,814)

7) Washington (99,713)

8) Colorado (96,686)

9) Illinois (75,754)

10) South Carolina (74,886)

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau and AP


The lead sentence in the AP story says, “Southern and western states are poised to snatch more congressional seats from the rest of the country as Americans pursue open spaces and warmer climates.”  More space and the weather are the only two factors the AP cites for the exodus south and west (There is an error in the AP story. It lists Utah as having a 2.5 percent increase in population from July 2007 to July 2008. The correct percentage increase for Utah is 22.5).

Could there be another factor in play causing movement to these particular states, like taxes? Here are the ten fastest growing states with their ranking among the states based on their burden of state and local taxes according to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation in Washington D.C. with #1 being the highest state-local tax burden in the nation:


1) Texas (43)

2) California (6)

3) North Carolina (20)

4) Georgia (16)

5) Arizona (41)

6) Florida (47)

7) Washington (35)

8) Colorado (34)

9) Illinois (30)

10) South Carolina (37)

Source: Tax Foundation


Is thIs a coincidence? I don’t think so. Weather a factor in Washington state, Colorado, and Illinois? Again, I don’t think so.

By comparison, Wisconsin ranks #9 in state-local tax burden.

Governor Doyle's reversal on the gas tax

Legislation, Taxes


April 1, 2007, Wisconsin’s gas tax, one of the highest in the nation, did not automatically increase as it had on April 1 for many previous years.  April 1, 2008, Wisconsin’s gas tax didn’t automatically increase. Governor Doyle wants to change that and return to yearly automatic gas tax increases.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:

“Doyle told the Wisconsin State Journal he wants to resume having the gas tax automatically increase every year.

‘The simple fact is that where Wisconsin went, where Republicans took us, is unsustainable for transportation (infrastructure), where you say, that's basically it on the gas tax, regardless of what the costs are and what the needs are,’ Doyle told the State Journal.

That's a departure from what he said two years ago, when he was running for re-election. Then, Doyle promised not to raise the gas tax during a second term, which runs through 2010.”

During the 2005 legislative session, I co-sponsored Senate Bill 331 that repealed the automatic gas tax increase. The state Senate approved the bill, 20-13,
and the state Assembly approved the bill, 74-23.

The reasoning behind the bill to end the automatic gas tax increase, also known as indexing, was that it amounted to taxation without representation. Wisconsin’s gas tax would go up every April 1 without a vote. It was a cruel April Fool’s joke, except this was not a joke.

The public understood the unfairness of the automatic increase and delivered a loud and clear message to the Legislature that indexing must stop.

The incredible outpouring of support to end the automatic increase in the gas tax demonstrated the public was fed up with high taxes and a lack of accountability. The automatic increase in the gas tax was a blatant example of taxation without representation.

Prior to the state Senate’s vote to repeal indexing, the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau reported the automatic gas tax increase had cost taxpayers $3.5 billion over the previous 20 years.

For those concerned about the effect the elimination of indexing would have on road projects, I submit they may always propose the Legislature take a vote on increasing the gas tax and then defend the reason the tax must go up.

The timing of Governor Doyle’s flip-flop is odd. Just when the price of gasoline has fallen to relatively affordable level, the governor is suggesting motorists get slapped with a tax increase.

Remember, as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported, the governor promised he would not support raising the gas tax.  And don’t forget this quote:

"We should not, we must not and I will not raise taxes."
Governor Doyle’s 2003 State of the State address

I do not support legislation that calls for reinstating gas tax indexing.

Wisconsin counties and their property taxes ranked

Taxes


The nonpartisan Tax Foundation in Washington D.C. has ranked all 788 counties in the United States with population of 65,000 or greater by property taxes paid, based on U.S. Census Bureau data.  Here are the top ten counties in Wisconsin and their national ranking.

Property Tax on Owner-Occupied Housing, by County, Ranked by Property Taxes Paid, 2005-2007 Average
The county is listed, followed by Median Property Taxes Paid on Homes, then the national ranking with #1 being the highest in property taxes:


1) Dane County                  $3,977                    46

2) Ozaukee County             $3,924                    51

3) Waukesha County          $3,864                    54

4) Milwaukee County          $3,544                    76

5) Pierce County                $3,395                    87

6) Washington County        $3,372                    90

7) Kenosha County            $3,363                     93

8) St. Croix County            $3,245                    103

9) Racine County               $3,101                    114

10) Walworth County          $3,013                    126


Here is the complete listing.

The 2009-10 legislative session: A preview

Legislation


There was a great deal of activity in Madison during 2008. I continue to be vocal about Wisconsin’s insatiable appetite to tax and spend. Unfortunately, Madison has been unwilling to change its fiscally irresponsible habits, approving a state budget during the fall of 2007 that voted against that increases taxing and spending.

During the 2009-10 legislative session that just began this month, Wisconsin must confront an incredibly huge budget shortfall. I hope the shortfall will serve as a much-needed wake-up call that we must finally get serious about controlling taxing and spending.  Wisconsin risks losing its best and brightest, not to mention our valued senior citizens driven to move to other more tax-friendly states.

The most important piece of business the Legislature addresses is the biennial state budget. The Legislature was almost four months late delivering the 2007-09 budget because of the dramatic difference between the budgets proposed by Governor Doyle, Assembly Republicans and Senate Democrats.

Ultimately, the Legislature approved and Governor Doyle signed into law a budget that increased taxes and fees by $763 million. I voted against the budget because it taxes and spends beyond the rate of inflation. In order to lower taxes in Wisconsin, one of the highest-taxed states in the nation, there must be reduced spending. The 2007-09 budget expanded an already bloated state government. We can’t afford the same mistake in the 2009-11 state budget.

Democrats controlling the state Senate twice put forth a government health care proposal and are expected to resurrect the issue again during the 2009-10 legislative session. The cost would be astronomical. Senate Democrats openly admit the price tag of their plan is $15. 2 billion annually. During fiscal year 2006-07, Wisconsin’s General Fund of income and sales tax revenue totaled $12.5 billion. Providing universal health care would more than double Wisconsin’s taxes that are already some of the highest in the nation. Clearly this would be the largest tax increase in the history of the United States. The $15.2 billion annual price tag is nearly two and a half times the $6.5 billion in state income tax revenue during 2006-07. Universal health care is a boondoggle state taxpayers cannot afford.

The cost is assuredly going to be much higher than anticipated, and the payroll tax will merely be passed on to consumers. It will be impossible for a payroll tax to keep up with the growing cost of health care.

Democrats led by Governor Doyle will also attempt to repeal the Qualified Economic Offer (QEO). Government health care and the elimination of the QEO will assuredly lead to skyrocketing tax increases at the state and local levels. I will strongly oppose any efforts to implement government health care and repeal the QEO.

The governor and legislative Democrats are also discussing increasing the cigarette tax and repealing the elimination of the automatic annual increase in the state’s gasoline tax. I will not support those proposals.

Senate Democrats have announced the first three Senate bills for the new session that they describe as high priorities. The first bill would raise the minimum wage from $6.50 to $7.25 and then index it for inflation. The second bill makes payment of unpaid wages a priority when a company goes out of business and the third bill mandates insurance companies to cover treatment for children with autism.

Many hours are spent on the floor of the state Senate, serving on legislative committees, researching legislation, and analyzing issues. Representing 160,000 constituents is a major responsibility I take very seriously. Serving you in Madison is an honor and privilege I enjoy immensely.

I especially enjoy meeting and working with so many of you wonderful people in the Senate district, whether it be at town hall meetings, award ceremonies, senior citizen and veterans facilities, Chamber of Commerce events, parades, and other activities. Direct interaction with you, my constituents, and hearing your advice and concerns enables me to provide you with top notch representation at the State Capitol.  As always, it is a pleasure to serve you.

Silver Alert legislation to be introduced

Legislation, Mary in the media


Soon I will be introducing legislation modeled after Wisconsin’s Amber Alert Plan that would utilize the current Amber Alert system to inform the public about an elderly person wandering or becoming lost. Called the Silver Alert, the system would not increase costs because it uses a service already in operation.

The Silver Alert legislation has the support of the Wisconsin Alzheimer's Association, the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups Inc., and the Wisconsin Health Care Association.

I will appear on the Fox 6 Morning News Monday, January 12, 2008 at 8:50 a.m. to discuss Silver Alert. Here are recent media reports about the legislation:

Wisconsin Public Radio: Scroll down to Lawmaker Wants New Alerts for Wandering Elders  on 1/05/09 and click audio for report.

WISN-TV 

Associated Press

Here is a blog I wrote about Silver Alert.

Congratulations Logan Garcia!

Eagle Scouts


Logan Garcia’s Eagle Scout ceremony was held on Sunday, January 11,  2009.

My office prepared a state citation that I presented to  Logan Garcia at the special ceremony. It reads:

Whereas, Logan Garcia is a member of the Boy Scouts of America Troop 229, and through dedication and commitment, attained the rank of Eagle Scout; and

Whereas, Logan Garcia’s Eagle Scout project included conducting two fundraisers fully funding renovation of a neglected storage area, and planning, coordinating, and leading fellow scouts and volunteers performing all the manual labor necessary, transforming the neglected area in need of repair to a fully functioning theater stage benefiting Saint James Parish; and

Whereas, Logan Garcia earned 24 merit badges, and served his troop in many leadership positions, including Senior Patrol Leader and Chaplain’s Aide; and

Whereas, Logan Garcia is a Senior at Mukwonago High School, a member of the National Honor Society, active member of the Drama Club, President of the local chapter of the International Thespian Society, consistently ranks in the top eight percent of the class, earning Mukwonago High School’s medals for academic achievement every year of his high school career, volunteered  more than 300 hours of community service, is employed at Pick ‘n Save, and plans to attend college pursuing a career in nursing; now

Therefore, the members of the Wisconsin State Senate on the motion of Senator Mary Lazich, commend Logan Garcia for outstanding dedication and service to scouting.  Logan Garcia is further commended for successfully completing the requirements necessary to attain the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest honorable rank awarded by the Boy Scouts of America.

Here come the tax increases

Taxes


The Washington Times forecasts that states all around the country are planning to tax just about anything and everything. Their general course of action will be to leave the income tax alone. Just about everything else is up for grabs. You name it, it is about to be taxed or see a tax increase: gas, car licenses, clothes, soda, satellite TV, cigars, and more.

The newspaper has a quote to remember from political strategist Trent Duffy: "Most reporters are covering the state budgets and thinking 'Oh, the poor states,' and no one is looking at this from the perspective of the taxpayers who are the ones whose wallets are going to be on the line."

How true. Read the Washington Times article. Here’s more from the Wall Street Journal. 

Property taxes statewide expected to rise four percent

Taxes


Property taxes are up all across Wisconsin with schools and technical colleges showing the largest increases. That’s according to the nonpartisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX).

There are some, as WISTAX calls them, “still-unavailable municipal levies.” WISTAX reports, “If municipal and related taxes rise 3.5%, as WISTAX estimates, total gross property taxes, before state tax credits, would rise about 4.3%.”

Read the entire release from WISTAX.

Government health care plan will return

Government health care, Legislation, Taxes


During the previous legislative session, I strongly opposed the Senate Democrats’ $15.2 billion government health care plan.  As expected, Democrats plan to reintroduce another budget-busting proposal.

State Senator John Erpenbach told WCLO Radio in Janesville there might be some changes, but the enormous price tag remains the same. 

While Wisconsin proposes government health care that will result in the largest tax increase in American history, other states are cutting back on health care.

Winter in Wisconsin is inspiring

News you can use, Tourism


You should be seeing new television spots soon promoting Wisconsin winter tourism. The ads are part of a new campaign by the Wisconsin Department of Tourism that highlights Wisconsin as a unique destination that inspires.

The ads feature 5-time Olympic Gold Medalist Bonnie Blair and the founder of the highly acclaimed Ko-Thi Dance Company, Ferne Caulker. This page contains the ads. The ad with Blair and her family was shot at Cascade Mountain in Portage while the ad with Caulker was produced at the Riverside Theater in downtown Milwaukee.

The new spots will air in the Milwaukee and Madison TV markets, in Chicago and in Minneapolis-St.Paul.

Travelers spent over $2.2 billion in Wisconsin during December 2007 and January and February 2008. For more information about Wisconsin tourism, visit this website. 

“A new era of government activism”

Government health care


Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan and Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a former deputy assistant to President George W. Bush write in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal that America is witnessing a major change in the relationship between government and our economy. Ryan and Wehner call it, “a new era of government activism.”

There has already been a never-before-seen infusion of sizeable government relief packages. Government health care will now become the main objective of the change from a market-driven to a socialistic economic system.

As dependence on health care from the government grows, so does a bond between the recipients and government. Ryan and Wehner fear that any talk of fiscal belt tightening
or tax cuts will result in hoots and hollers that such actions will impair health care.

The writers offer an alternative to socialized medicine:

“Tax credits, high-risk pools, insurance choice and regulatory reform can form the basis of a transformation from today's enormously costly and inefficient third-party system into one driven by ownership, choice and competition. And at the nucleus of this redesigned system will be the patient-doctor relationship.”

If this approach is unsuccessful and government dependence increases, Ryan and Wehner foresee America moving from a limited to a full-blown welfare state.

Their column is an interesting read.

Eat more Wisconsin blueberries


Last summer I blogged that the Wisconsin blueberry is a superfood. 

The blueberry also falls under the category of one of the 11 best foods you aren’t eating. That’s the assessment of Dr. Jonny Bowden, author of “The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth.”

His list of the 11 best foods you aren’t eating was one of the most-viewed stories in the New York Times in 2008. 

Wisconsin should have a Silver Alert

Legislation


Mary Zeltzer of Largo, Florida left her assisted-living complex to pick
up some groceries.  When the 86-year old failed to return, her daughter became worried. A week later, Mary Zeltzer’s daughter learned her mother had been found in her own car, a drowning victim. 

That was February 2008, eight months before the state of Florida enacted a Silver Alert program. Silver Alert is an Amber Alert-type system for elderly Alzheimer’s or dementia patients that stray or wander off. 

Charlie Brownlee had a better fate than Mary Zeltzer. Like Zeltzer, 76-year old Charlie Brownlee wandered away.  Brownlee had been staying at his sister’s home in Miami.  He left barefoot, got into a car, and attempted to drive to his home in Alabama.  

Charlie Brownlee’s family notified authorities. That was during November 2008, one month after Florida began its Silver Alert program.  A Silver Alert was issued and Brownlee was found by a police officer parked in a ditch about 30 miles away, alive and unharmed.

I will soon introduce legislation to create a Silver Alert system in Wisconsin. My legislation is modeled after Wisconsin’s highly successful Amber Alert program. The Silver Alert would utilize the Amber Alert system to alert the public about an elderly person wandering or becoming lost. 

When an Amber Alert is activated, Wisconsin radio and television stations cut into programming to broadcast information about an abducted child using the Emergency Alert System.  Highway message board signs also convey information about confirmed child abduction. The Silver Alert would use that same system that is already in place to alert the public about an elderly missing person. 

Getting information out quickly and employing the aid of the public may prevent the tragic death of a senior citizen. That is why I consider this to be life-saving legislation, one of the most important bills the Legislature will consider this session. Because the Silver Alert utilizes a system that piggybacks off a system that is already up and running, the cost of Silver Alert would be minimal, if anything.

The Alzheimer’s Association reports that at least 5.2 million Americans suffer from dementia. Research shows that six out of 10 of those will wander. Only four percent of those leaving home alone are able to find their way back without help. Seniors and others with dementia wander away, on foot or driving. If they are not found within 24 hours, at least half will suffer serious injury or die. An aging baby boomer population means those figures will surely grow. 

Twelve states have Silver Alert and the program has been successful. A majority of those reported missing have returned safely.  While the protocol for activating a Silver Alert varies from state to state, most of the states that have the program require local law enforcement to confirm that the missing person is a danger to himself or others and that the individual suffers from some sort of dementia before issuing the alert. 

The beauty of Silver Alert is that within hours, thousands of eyes are looking for the car and the license plate or that missing elderly person. Broadcasters and others already know how to use the Amber Alert system. They should be able to implement Silver Alert quickly, efficiently, and effectively. Silver Alert has put many families at ease, providing comfort to them should they have a family member who has dementia.  

The Silver Alert legislation has the support of the Wisconsin Alzheimer's Association, the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups Inc., and the Wisconsin Health Care Association. This legislation is nonpartisan and a positive step for the health and welfare of precious elderly.

Public comment invited on Connections 2030

News you can use


The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) wants to hear public input on Connections 2030, its long-range transportation plan. A public meeting is set for Wednesday, January 21 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Milwaukee County Downtown Transit Center.

Connections 2030 will assist the state in making transportation choices over the next two decades.

You can get more details on the meeting and Connections 2030 here.

Thank you, Women’s Court & Civic Conference!


It was a privilege to be invited to speak today about the Great Lakes Compact before the Women’s Court & Civic Conference of the Greater Milwaukee Area.  This is an amazing group, founded in 1922 by wives of judges and attorneys. Their stated mission is, “To unite women's groups of the community for the improvement of the court and public institutions: to inform and be informed on local, state, and national issues: to take action as individuals and through member organizations: and to present programs of general interest.”

As I began my presentation, I shared that in all my public appearances, this had to be the first time that women far outnumbered men in the audience.

How refreshing it is to see such a long-standing group filled with
civic-minded individuals dedicated to seeking out critical information on a variety of important issues. I congratulate the Women’s Court & Civic Conference of the Greater Milwaukee Area for its wonderful history and reputation and for its ongoing efforts to enrich themselves and society.

If you are interested in getting involved in this dynamic group, I strongly encourage you to consider becoming a member. More information can be found on the organization’s website.

Score one for the taxpayers

Taxes


The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
is reporting that, “A
state law that prevented Milwaukee property owners from getting full court review of disputed assessments is unconstitutional. In March 2008, the Legislature passed a law allowing municipalities to adopt ordinances that would prevent property owners who challenge assessments from getting a full-blown court trial if they appealed boards of review decisions. Within weeks, Milwaukee and a few other communities adopted such ordinances. The law allows property owners to seek a review of an assessment but does not permit a new trial on all the issues.”  

I cast the lone dissenting vote against the legislation in the state Senate during March 2008 and explained the reason on my blog:

Property taxpayers in Wisconsin already bear a heavy burden. Stacking the deck against them in court before a hearing even begins, assuming that the assessor is correct, and slapping them with a fee is bad public policy. The Governor should have vetoed this bill.”

This court ruling is a victory for taxpayers who rarely get a chance to celebrate in WisconsinThank you to Judge Jean DiMotto for an excellent court ruling.

Congratulations Greendale School District!

Good news from Senate District 28


The Greendale School District has the highest ranking of any district in Milwaukee County according to The Wisconsin Public Policy Forum’s  2007-2008 report on the achievement of 50 school districts.

A summary prepared by the Greendale School District reports the following rankings in specific categories for Greendale:

4th grade reading ranked 6th in Southeastern Wisconsin with 96% of students scoring proficient or advanced.

8th grade reading ranked 13th in Southeastern Wisconsin with 94% of students scoring proficient or advanced.

10th grade mathematics ranked 13th in Southeastern Wisconsin with 90% of students scoring proficient or advanced.

Greendale ranked 10th in attendance in Southeastern Wisconsin out of 50 districts with student attendance of 96.4%.

Congratulations Greendale Superintendent William Hughes, Greendale School District officials and staff, teachers, students, and parents for your outstanding achievement!

Here are the complete rankings compiled by the Public Policy Forum

The UW Hospital must not perform late-term abortions


I am one of 29 state legislators to sign a letter requesting that the University of Wisconsin Hospital immediately halt its plans to offer late-term abortions at a private clinic.

The letter reads, in part, “Other hospitals around the country are taking pride in their ability to provide lifesaving care for babies born in the second trimester. We in the Wisconsin State Legislature, as well as the constituencies we represent, do not want our University to develop a nationwide reputation for killing these babies.”

You can read the letter here and a report by the Appleton Post-Crescent.

Government health care a magnet for uninsured

Government health care


Legislative Democrats plan to reintroduce their government health care program that had a price tag of $15.2 billion during the last legislative session. A new report by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI) says the plan would result in a huge influx of the uninsured.

The WPRI reports:

“An influx into the state of Wisconsin of health care–seeking persons, many of whom may have chronic, serious, and costly health care problems, would result in a significant, unbudgeted burden on Wisconsin taxpayers, as well as the possibility of reduced health care quality as measures are taken to help control cost overruns. Troubling on its own, this will be even more problematic in an era of projected multi-billion dollar deficits.”

I have opposed and will continue to oppose the Democrats’ government health care plan that amounts to the largest tax increase in the history of America.

Here is the full WPRI report and a Journal Sentinel article.

Another victory for photo ID

Photo ID


Earlier this month, an appellate court upheld the constitutionality of the photo ID voting law in Georgia:

“Although this appeal does not involve the right to travel, a burden of air travel in contemporary society provides an apt comparison. Before an adult passenger can board an airplane for a commercial flight in the United States, the passenger must present to a federal official an identification card with a photograph of the passenger. The burden of that exercise assists the federal government in keeping passengers safe from physical harm. This appeal concerns whether a state government can use that kind of exercise to safeguard one of our most fundamental civil rights: the right to vote. We must decide whether a law of Georgia that requires every voter who casts a ballot in person to produce an identification card with a photograph of the voter unduly burdens the right to vote.”

The court’s decision from the ruling:

“We conclude, based on the decision in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, 128 S. Ct. 1610 (2008), which upheld a similar law in Indiana, that the burden imposed by the requirement of photo identification is outweighed by the interests of Georgia in safeguarding the right to vote.”

The Heritage Foundation reports, “The plaintiffs were unable to present any evidence of any individuals who either did not already have an ID or could not easily get one. In fact, two of the witnesses presented by the NAACP as supposedly not being able to vote because of the law both testified ‘that they could and would obtain a free photo identification with little difficulty.’”

About a year ago, I blogged about a major study that provided ample evidence that
photo ID’s are not obstacles to voting.

Here is the entire court ruling by the 11th  Circuit Court of Appeals upholding Georgia’s photo ID law and details from the Heritage Foundation. 

I have always supported and continue to support the implementation of a photo ID requirement for voting in Wisconsin.
 

I want an audit of Wisconsin Shares

Audits, Mary in the media


Here is a news release I issued this morning:


LAZICH WANTS FULL AUDIT OF WISCONSIN SHARES PROGRAM
Request follows MJS series that found rampant fraud in child care program

FOR IMMMEDIATE RELEASE                                        Contact: Sen. Lazich
MONDAY, JANUARY 26, 2009                                        Phone: (608)266-5400

(MADISON) - State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) has formally asked the co-chairpersons of the Joint Committee on Audit to request that the Legislative Audit Bureau conduct a full review of the state taxpayer-funded Wisconsin Shares child care program. Lazich’s request follows a series of reports by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel after its four month investigation of Wisconsin Shares uncovered what the newspaper called, “a trail of phony companies, fake reports and shoddy oversight.”

The Journal Sentinel also reported, “The system allows child-care providers and parents to easily con the system, capitalizing on children for public cash.” With limited access to child care cases, the Journal Sentinel still pinpointed $750,000 in suspicious child-care disbursements.

“The taxpayers funding this program demand answers and accountability concerning the serious allegations made as a result of the Journal Sentinel’s investigation and subsequent reporting,” said Lazich, a member of the Joint Committee on Audit.

“The current conditions outlined by the Journal Sentinel are unacceptable,” said Lazich who made her request for an audit in a letter to Joint Committee on Audit co-chairpersons, Senator Kathleen Vinehout and Representative Peter Barca.

The Journal Sentinel’s findings include counties accepting almost anything as verification of employment for parents requesting assistance,  caseworkers approving child care while children were at school all day, and regulators reluctant to revoke licenses for fraud.

“My fear is that the problems associated with Wisconsin Shares are even more serious than the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel discovered,” said Lazich. “I trust the outstanding Legislative Audit Bureau will do an excellent job determining the extent of fraud in Wisconsin Shares.”

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports the last full audit of Wisconsin Shares was done during 2001.



UPDATE from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Services available for our veterans

News you can use, Veterans issues


The Madison Vet Center has produced an outstanding flier that outlines the various services available statewide to our veterans.

The Madison Vet Center provides a variety of care that includes professional readjustment counseling, community education, outreach to special populations, balancing of services with community agencies, and key access links between the veteran and other services in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Since 1982 the Madison Vet Center has helped over 11,650 veterans.

I urge veterans and their families to read the Madison Vet Center flier for more important information, and thank you for your service to our great country!

State Senate calendar for Wednesday, January 28


Here is the calendar for the state Senate floor session Wednesday, January 28, 2009 at 2:00 p.m.:

First Order.               Call of Roll.

Read more

Congress does not have the magic wand to help the states


It is officially called the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.” You know it better as the economic stimulus package.

Washingtonwatch.com reports, “The bill’s reported tally of $825 billion in spending works out to about $8,800 per U.S. family, or $2,800 per person in the United States.”

Just what is all in the spending package? Here is the entire proposal.  

The latest news reports indicate Congress is poised to approve the $825 billion stimulus package. Some see the package as the savior for state governments suffering from massive deficits.  That won’t be the case.

CNNMoney.com reports that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) this month forecast the cumulative deficits in all 50 states totaling $131 billion for 2009 with an additional cumulative deficit of $181 billion for 2010 for a total $312 billion. 

The left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities paints an even grimmer picture reporting, 
State deficits are projected to equal $350 billion over the next 30 months.” The same Washington D.C. group says a stimulus package would fail to come close to resolving the budget woes of the states.

“The amount of funding that would go to states to help them maintain current activities is approximately $150 billion to $155 billion — or roughly 40 percent to 45 percent of projected state deficits.  Most of this money is in the form of increased Medicaid funding plus portions of a ‘Fiscal Stabilization Fund.’  This funding would likely be sufficient to deter many states from making the most severe spending cuts and to moderate state tax and fee increases.  But states would still have very large gaps to close on their own,” says the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

About half of any stimulus money sent to a state, Wisconsin for example, could not be used to fix a large budget hole. If the current projections are correct, that the cumulative deficit of the states ranges between $312 and $350 billion, the stimulus package approved by Congress would still leave the states with total deficits between $162 and $200 billion to fill on their own.

Wisconsin Governor Doyle is one of three Democrat governors asking Congress for a $1 trillion stimulus package.

Read more in Stateline.

I'm on WISN

Mary in the media


I will discuss Governor Doyle’s State of the State address Thursday morning at 6:40 on Newstalk 1130 WISN with Jay Weber.

Great news for Senate District 28

Business, Good news from Senate District 28


I am thrilled to hear the wonderful news that United Heartland will build a new national headquarters in New Berlin and create 300 new jobs.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has details. 

Congratulations to United Heartland and New Berlin!

The governor didn't say much...

 

Governor Doyle was vague and bland during the first half of his State of the State address. He didn’t appear interested in cooperation or extending a hand across the aisle. The governor is aware he can push his proposals through the Democrat-controlled Legislature without bipartisan support. He claims he inherited a $3.2 billion deficit, however failed to explain his $5.2 billion deficit. The governor also said he didn’t raise taxes, and failed to explain that the Republican Assembly blocked many of his increases in the last state budget.

There will be a hearing about an audit of Wisconsin Shares

Audits

 

Earlier this week, I wrote a letter to the co-chairpersons of the Joint Committee on Audit that I serve on, formally asking for a full audit of the Wisconsin Shares program.

I am very pleased that a hearing about an audit will be held.

Here are more details from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Taxpayers deserve answers about Wisconsin Shares

Audits


“Child-care scams rake in thousands”

That was the blaring headline the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel used to begin its series of investigative reports on Wisconsin Shares, a state taxpayer supported child care system. The $340-million program, when successful, provides assistance to low-income parents to help them get and retain jobs.

During a four month period, reporter Raquel Rutledge pored over 2,500 records and documents and uncovered, what it called, ““
a trail of phony companies, fake reports and shoddy oversight,” a system that could be scammed without difficulty or accountability by parents and child-care providers, “capitalizing on children for public cash.” With limited access to child care cases, the Journal Sentinel still pinpointed $750,000 in suspicious child-care disbursements.

The current conditions outlined by the Journal Sentinel are unacceptable. I’m appalled that rampant fraud and waste is occurring, especially at a time the state is suffering a huge deficit.

This legislative session, I serve as a member of the Joint Committee on Audit. I formally asked in a letter to the committee co-chairpersons that they request the highly regarded, nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau conduct a full review of the Wisconsin Shares child-care program. Three days later, the committee co-chairpersons announced the committee will hold a public hearing to decide if the Legislative Audit Bureau should conduct an audit. The hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, February 18, 2009 at 2:00 p.m. in Room 411 South of the State Capitol in Madison. The public is invited.

The taxpayers funding this program demand answers and accountability concerning the serious allegations made as a result of the Journal Sentinel’s investigation and subsequent reporting. My fear is that the problems associated with Wisconsin Shares are even more serious than the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel discovered. The state and local governments investigated refused to turn a great deal of information to the newspaper indicating the true scope of the problem could be even more serious and widespread.

I liken this to the welfare fraud allegations that led to major reform in Wisconsin that served as a model for the rest of the nation.

The newspaper articles along with a thorough review could lead to a much-needed overhaul of the program. Like the welfare scandals years ago, the taxpaying public will not tolerate waste and fraud. We have to protect the taxpayers and we must also ensure that the truly needy, the truly deserving are receiving program services. Measures to prevent cash-grabbing scams can be put in place only after a full audit.

The Legislative Audit Bureau will have far greater access and cooperation than the newspaper received and I trust will do an excellent job determining just how serious the fraud is in Wisconsin Shares. The last full audit of Wisconsin Shares was during 2001. It is time we have another.

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