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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.

Walgreens, like Wal-Mart, is a health care innovator

News you can use


I have blogged extensively about efforts by Wal-Mart to develop affordable heath care. Other retailers like Target, CVS, and Walgreens have followed suit.

Innovation continues as Walgreens will offer free medical services to individuals without jobs and are uninsured. 
Here are more details about the Take Care Recovery Plan at Walgreens along with information on participating locations, answers to frequently asked questions, and a video news release.

The public sector could definitely learn some lessons about providing health care from the creative private sector.

Thank you Walgreens! 

Waukesha County to participate in major children’s health study

News you can use

 

I am pleased that Waukesha County is one of 105 counties in the country to be selected to participate in the National Children’s Study (NCS). The project is considered to be the largest, most comprehensive study of children’s health in the history of the United States. The goal is to learn about the relationship between a child’s environment and his or her long-term health.

The progress of about 100,000 children from birth until age 21 will be followed as part of the study. Waukesha County will be one of the first counties participating that will have data collected this spring and summer from 1,250 children.

Participants will be recruited from 17 randomly selected neighborhoods from different areas of Waukesha County. Door-to-door recruitment will begin in late April 2009 in Brookfield, Dousman, Hartland, Pewaukee, and the city of Waukesha. Door-to-door recruitment will begin during June 2009 in New Berlin, Big Bend, Menomonee Falls and Sussex.

Women pregnant, or becoming pregnant within the next five years, and living in one of the 17 neighborhoods will be asked to enroll. Participation is voluntary and confidential. Privacy will be protected and data will be kept confidential. Because the study is observational, there will not be medical treatments or interventions.

Information will be gathered from participants through in-home visits from trained data collectors, occasional visits to the local NCS office, telephone interviews, the mail, and at local hospitals and clinics.

Participants will be compensated for expenses and time spent during involvement in the study.

The study will be conducted in Waukesha County by researchers from the UW-Madison, Medical College of Wisconsin, UW-Milwaukee, Children’s Service Society of Wisconsin, and the National Opinion Research Center.

Researchers will review various environmental aspects and the effect on the health and well-being of children. They will include: natural and man-made environmental factors, biological and chemical factors, physical surroundings, social factors, behavioral influences and outcomes, genetics, cultural and family influences, and geographic locations.

Preliminary results from the first years of the study are expected to be released during 2011. The actual study will cover more than 20 years.

For more information, you can go to the NCS website.

You can watch this video about the The National Children’s Study: Health, Growth, Environment [in English].

Here are stories about Waukesha County’s study participation from the Capital Times and WUWM Milwaukee Public Radio.

Tapping, i.e., taxing, high earners

State budget


The Wall Street Journal has taken notice that Wisconsin is among several states attempting to balance budgets off the backs of higher wage earners. 

Governor Doyle’s proposal to impose higher taxes on wealthier residents is bad economic policy for the state. During December 2007, I blogged that the entire state loses with higher taxes forcing wealthier individuals to move out. I wrote:

“During November 2005, the Wisconsin Taxpayer Alliance issued a very troubling report entitled, ‘Moving In, Moving on: Migration in Wisconsin.’  During the five years prior to the 2000 census, almost 669,000 people either moved to or out of Wisconsin. However, the net in-migration into Wisconsin was a meager 7,282.

Individuals with college or advanced degrees were more likely to leave, while those with less education tended to come. Individuals with household incomes above $75,000 left Wisconsin. Those with incomes of $200,000 or more had the highest rates of leaving.

The huge exodus of wealthy Wisconsinites leaving the state caused a loss of an estimated $4.72 billion in net worth and a loss of $455 million in income over the five years of this study. That means far fewer in-state bank deposits, less stock in Wisconsin firms, less investment capital for in-state ventures, and less money given to local charities.”

Read my entire blog.

Engaging in class warfare is divisive and won’t solve our deficit problems. Wisconsin should refrain from punishing those who have worked hard and become successful. We should not be making it easier for them to pack up their belongings and take their earnings elsewhere.

Thank you, Wisconsin business leaders

Business


Thank you for appearing and testifying at the WISCONSIN JOBS NOW Task Force meeting Monday, March 23, 2009 at BioResearch Inc. in Brown Deer.

As I expected, you brought a wealth of expertise and I was extremely impressed with your contributions.  The insight and personal experiences you shared will be valuable. Your input is expected to be incorporated into a report of recommendations to the Legislature to create jobs and truly stimulate our economy.

Again, thank you for your heartfelt testimony at the WISCONSIN JOBS NOW Task Force meeting, and for all you do every day to make significant contributions to our economy and quality of life.

New radio ads go after oil company tax

Taxes


The Wisconsin Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association (WPMCA) has begun a statewide radio campaign against the oil franchise tax proposed by Governor Doyle and legislative Democrats. The ads correctly emphasize that oil companies will not pay such a tax. Instead, the tax would be passed on to consumers.

Click here
 for links to the two WPMCA radio ads and press release.

You can do it again, Greendale!

Good news from Senate District 28


Last fall, I blogged about the village of Greendale’s tremendous showing in the national America in Bloom competition.

I have been informed by Greendale America In Bloom co-chair Mary Helen Block that the village will also be participating in this year’s contest.

Best of luck to the village of Greendale!

Public meeting next week about I-43 and County Y project

News you can use


Here is information I have received from the state Department of Transportation about an important upcoming meeting in New Berlin about the County Y/I-43 interchange project. I urge all concerned parties to attend:

Public meeting scheduled for I-43 and County Y in Waukesha County

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) Southwest Regional Office in Waukesha is announcing a public information meeting to discuss the reconstruction of the County Y (Racine Avenue) and I-43 interchange in Waukesha County.  The meeting is scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 9, 2009 at the New Berlin City Hall, 3805 Casper Drive, New Berlin.

The purpose of this meeting is to present information on the upcoming construction, which is scheduled to begin in mid to late April.  Information will be provided on traffic control, construction staging, access during construction, and continued public outreach efforts. The proposed improvements include the reconstruction of County Y from W. College Avenue to Julius Heil Drive, reconstruction of freeway ramps, roundabout construction at the ramp termini on County Y, and the County Y bridge over I-43 re-decking.

The meeting will be an "open-house" format.  The community is encouraged to attend anytime from 6 to 8 p.m. Personnel from WisDOT, project field staff, and construction contractors will be available to provide information and answer questions.

New Berlin City Hall is wheelchair accessible.  If you are unable to attend the meeting, or would like more information, contact Philip Bain, project manager at (262) 548-8809.  Written comments regarding the project can be mailed to Philip Bain, WisDOT, 141 NW Barstow St. Waukesha, WI 53187.  Citizens who are hearing-impaired and who require an interpreter may request one by contacting Philip Bain at least three working days prior to the meeting via the Wisconsin Telecommunications Relay system (dialing 711).

I-94 NORTH-SOUTH update

News you can use


Here is the update for this week from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) for the I-94 NORTH-SOUTH freeway project:

Construction update April 6 – April 12:
I-94 North-South Freeway Project update in Milwaukee County
All closures are weather-dependent and subject to change.


MONDAY, APRIL 6

Double lane closures on I-894/I-43 eastbound between 35th St and 27th St. 9:30 p.m. - 11 p.m.
Full closure of I-894/I-43 eastbound at Loomis Rd. 11 p.m. - 4:30 a.m.
Full closure of Loomis Rd. on-ramp to I-894/I-43 eastbound 11 p.m - 4:30 a.m.


TUESDAY, APRIL 7

Double lane closures on I-894/I-43 westbound between 20th St and 27th St. 9:30 p.m. -11 p.m.
Single inside median lane closure on I-94 WEST (northbound) from the Airport Spur (WIS 119) through the Mitchell Interchange to 20th St. 9:30 p.m. - 5:30 a.m.
Double I-94 EAST (southbound) lane closure from Airport Spur (WIS 119) to College Ave. 9:30 p.m. - 5:30 a.m.
Full Closure of I-894/I-43 westbound at the Mitchell Interchange. 11 p.m. - 4:30 a.m.
Full closure of Mitchell Interchange freeway connector ramp from I-94/I-43 southbound to I-894/I-43 westbound. 11 p.m. - 4:30 a.m.
Full closure of Mitchell Interchange freeway connector ramp from I-94 WEST (northbound) to I-894/I-43 westbound  11 p.m. - 4:30 a.m.
Full closure of the westbound Airport Spur (WIS 119) at Howell Ave./Grange Ave. 11 p.m.- 4:30 a.m.


WEDNESDAY, APRIL 8

Only long term closures in effect.


THURSDAY, APRIL 9 

Only long term closures in effect.


FRIDAY, APRIL 10

Only long term closures in effect. 


SATURDAY, APRIL 11

Full closure of I-94 WEST (northbound) at College Avenue. 12:01.a.m. - 9 a.m.
Single lane closure of I-94 EAST (southbound) from the Airport Spur to College Ave. 12:01 a.m. - 9 a.m.

SUNDAY, APRIL 12

Full closure of I-94 WEST (northbound) at College Avenue. 12:01.a.m. - 9 a.m.
Single lane closure of I-94 EAST (southbound) from the Airport Spur to College Ave.12:01 a.m. - 9 a.m.


LONG TERM CLOSURES

I-894/I-43 WB exit ramp to 27th Street. Until Late July
27th St entrance ramp to I-894/I-43 EB. Until Late July     
27th St NB entrance loop ramp to I-894 WB. Until Late July
I-894/I-43 WB right lane closure between Mitchell Interchange and 27th St. Until Late July
Single lane closures on NB and SB 27th Street between Layton Ave. and Bottsford Ave - both directions of traffic will run on the 27th St. SB bridge over I-894 (two lanes in each direction) Until Late July
Full closure of College Ave from 15th St. to 20th Street. Until November 2009
Full closure of Grange Ave from 15th St. to 20th St. Until November 2009

Congratulations, Jeffrey Beier!

Eagle Scouts


Jeffrey Beier’s Eagle Scout ceremony was held on Saturday, April 4, 2009.

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

Whereas, Jeffrey J. Beier is a member of the Boy Scouts of America Troop 53, and through dedication and commitment, attained the rank of Eagle Scout; and

Whereas, Jeffrey J. Beier’s Eagle Scout project consisted of rehabilitating New Berlin’s Biewer Park including rebuilding the park’s footbridge, repainting the park gazebo, and repaving and widening the main pathways, resulting in a 200 volunteer service hour project; and

Whereas, Jeffrey J. Beier earned 26 merit badges, and served his troop in the leadership positions of Patrol Leader, Assistant Senior Patrol Leader, Senior Patrol Leader, Guide, and
was inducted into the Order of the Arrow; and

Whereas, Jeffrey J. Beier is a Senior at Nathan Hale High School, exhibits amazing piano talent earning two Gold Cups, and volunteers with SayYes senior citizen projects throughout New Berlin and at the New Berlin Food Pantry; and

Whereas, Jeffrey J. Beier plans to attend Waukesha County Technical College to pursue a career in computer programming; now

Therefore, the members of the Wisconsin State Senate on the motion of Senator Mary Lazich, commend Jeffrey J. Beier for outstanding dedication and service to scouting.  Jeffrey J. Beier 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.

Congratulations, Nicholas Unger!

Eagle Scouts

Nicholas Unger’s Eagle Scout ceremony was held on Sunday, April 5, 2009.

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

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

Whereas, Nicholas Charles Unger’s Eagle Scout project included securing permission, gathering materials, constructing, and installing Wood Duck Houses to replace dilapidated Duck Houses, adding many more Duck Houses to a wildlife area during a 125 man hour project; and 

Whereas, Nicholas Charles Unger earned 31 merit badges, and served his troop in the leadership positions of Senior Patrol Leader, Assistant Senior Patrol Leader, Patrol Leader, Assistant Patrol Leader, and Quartermaster; and 

Whereas, Nicholas Charles Unger is a junior Honor Roll student at Mukwonago High School, and is an active member of the Varsity Wrestling Team, and an outstanding community volunteer, logging over 300 hours of community service; and 

Whereas, Nicholas Charles Unger plans to pursue a career in construction trades; now 

Therefore, the members of the Wisconsin State Senate on the motion of Senator Mary Lazich, commend Nicholas Charles Unger for outstanding dedication and service to scouting.  Nicholas Charles Unger 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.

Audit: Inmate mental health care

Audits


As of June 2008, 6,957 of Wisconsin’s 22,451 prison inmates were categorized as mentally ill, almost 31 percent. That is according to an audit by the Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) that was conducted following concerns about the cost and availability of treatment for inmates. The LAB just completed its review of mental health care of inmates by the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS). Here is a summary of the audit findings.

During fiscal year 2007-08, expenditures for inmate mental health care totaled approximately $59.8 million.  DOC's expenditures included $20.6 million in staff costs and $6.1 million for psychotropic medications. Expenditures by DHS for housing and treating inmates at the Wisconsin Resource Center totaled $32.8 million. DOC used 127.35 full-time equivalent mental health care staff.

The number of mentally ill inmates is on the rise, from 6,084 during June 2006 to 6,957 during June 2008, a 14.3 percent increase. The LAB reports, “Mental illnesses were more than twice as common among female inmates.”

About two-thirds of inmates were screened for mental illness within two days of being taken into DOC custody. DOC staff reviewed files of inmates transferred between facilities in a timely fashion.

Inmates are monitored regularly by psychologists. However the LAB found group therapy was limited. DOC facilities fail to meet national standards for psychology and psychiatry staffing ratios.

Medications are delivered to inmates by correctional officers. The procedure in neighboring states has delivery made by health care staff.

The LAB also found that mentally ill inmates have had a disproportionate effect on safety and discipline, accounting for more than 90 percent of 1,231 special placements made as a result of selfharm from fiscal year 2005-06 to fiscal year 2007-08. These inmates must be monitored by DOC staff at least every 15 minutes. Mentally ill inmates were responsible for almost 80 percent of the 755 inmate assaults on staff during the same time period, costing $874,200 in worker’s compensation awards to DOC and DHS staff. Almost half (46.1 percent) of inmates segregated were mentally ill during January 2008.

The LAB noted the federal Department of Justice discovered during 2006 that inmate mental health care at Taycheedah Correctional Institution did not meet constitutional standards. Last September, DOC agreed to a conditional settlement with the federal Department of Justice that requires specific improvements by September 2012. A 45-bed addition to the Wisconsin Resource Center for female inmates will be completed during February 2011 for $11.1 million. Bonding totaling $7.6 million has been requested by DOC to construct additional treatment space at Taycheedah. Governor Doyle’s proposed state budget asks for 149 full-time positions and $6.6 million to operate the new space and provide services.

The LAB recommends DOC report back to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee that I serve on by January 4, 2010 about the following:

* Options 
for improving screening for developmental disabilities

* Plans for providing correctional officers with more specific information on inmates’ mental health needs and with enhanced training

* E
fforts to improve both release planning for mentally ill inmates and, after release, their supervision in the community

* Progress in implementing its settlement agreement with the federal Department of Justice


The LAB also recommends that DOC ensure all correctional officers have been trained in medication delivery and improve its collection and management of data related to inmate self-harm,
assaults on staff, and segregation placements.

Here is the full audit report.  I commend the LAB for its consistently excellent work.

Tally ho for turkeys

News you can use


Wisconsin
’s spring turkey season officially opens April 15, 2009 and, according to state wildlife officials, the prospects look good  The wild turkey population is reported to be healthy and plentiful even though the winter was harsh.

The 2009 spring turkey season has six, five-day time periods that conclude on May 24, 2009.

Here is more information from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Wisconsin Outdoor News. 



Conservation Congress meetings coming up

News you can use


Important annual Conservation Congress County Meetings take place all across Wisconsin in less than two weeks. Hunters and fishers have an opportunity to discuss and voice their views on dozens of outdoor issues.

Here are full details. 

One of the matters to be addressed at the meetings will be the definition of a hunting gun.

TOP TEN WISCONSIN CONSUMER COMPLAINTS

News you can use


Wisconsin
consumers complained a lot during 2008, registering 15,903 complaints to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). Let’s run down the top 10 list of consumer gripes recorded, starting with #10.

Making the top 10 list for the first time is travel/tourism at #10 with 509 complaints. Most often, travelers said they paid the entire or partial cost of a trip only to see it cancelled or the travel company go out of business. The result is no vacation or refund.  DATCP cautions that you double-check to make sure the travel business you are dealing with is reputable.
 The #9 complaint is motor vehicle repair with 517 complaints.

Gasoline/fuel non-heating complaints make the list for the first time at #8 with 519 complaints. Remember those $4/gallon prices during 2008? Consumers were very unhappy about gas prices and the differences between the posted price on the street sign and the price at the pump.

The #7 complaint is about credit cards with 537 complaints recorded. DATCP’s advice: Read the fine print to learn the conditions that the credit card company can alter the interest rate, billing period, or other agreements.

Another first-timer on the list at #6 is Internet service providers with 570 complaints generally about billing problems.

Satellite dishes also find their way onto the list for the first time at #5 with 979 complaints, again, mainly about billing.

The #4 item on the list, generating 1,163 complaints is home improvement where consumer losses can amount to tens of thousands of dollars. DATCP recommends getting agreements in writing and calling the state Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-422-7127 to confirm if there have been complaints issued about a contractor.

Not surprisingly, telephone companies made the #3 spot on the list with 1,328 complaints. The telecommunications has finished in the top three of the top list of consumer complaints in Wisconsin every year since 1995.  Key suggestions from DATCP are to review your bill closely and inquire about any charge you don’t understand.

Problems with landlords and tenants make up the second-highest number of
consumer complaints, 1,646 in total.  Most of the complaints are about security deposits and lease conditions.

The #1 Wisconsin consumer gripe during 2008, generating 2,225 complaints are violations of Wisconsin’s No Call List. This has been the #1 complaint since Wisconsin instituted the No Call List during 2003.

The Wisconsin No Call List is a list of residential telephone numbers of Wisconsin residents who do not want to be called by telemarketers in their homes. The Wisconsin law prohibits telemarketers from calling households that have been added to the No Call List. You can register
all your home phone numbers. The law also prohibits businesses from intentionally blocking the Caller ID feature on your telephone.

Only one adult in your household needs to register. Be sure to register any additional phone numbers at the same residence. Registering is free by calling 1-866-9NO-CALL (1-866-966-2255) toll-free in Wisconsin.

Telemarketers who call someone on the No Call List can be subject to a $100 fine per call. If you get a telemarketing call after you have registered to be on the No Call List:

1. If you have Caller ID, write down the phone number from which they are calling. It is illegal for a telemarketer to block Caller ID.

2. Get the name of the company for which the telemarketer works. Often companies will contract with telemarketing companies to market their services for them. Make sure you get the name of the telemarketing company as well as the company for which they are selling. All telemarketers are required to state their name and their company's name at the beginning of the call. If you didn't hear it, ask them to repeat it.

3. Ask the telemarketer for their Wisconsin telemarketing license number.

Try to get their manager's phone number and an address for the telemarketing firm. Make sure you note the date and time the call was made. Then make a complaint to DATCP.

You can avoid many consumer protection problems by visiting the Consumer Protection website 
or by calling the toll free hotline at 1-800-422-7127.

State Budget Watch: Tuition discounts for illegal immigrants

State budget


The Christian Science Monitor is reporting that four states, Georgia, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Arizona have acted to prohibit illegal immigrants from receiving in-state tuition rates. These rates are generally far less expensive than rates charged to out-of-state students.

The rough economy is one reason for the move. Another is fairness. Middle-class families struggling to send their children to and get them through college in an affordable fashion are generally unsupportive of in-state rates for undocumented students.

While four states refuse to allow in-state rates for illegal immigrants, 10 states do. Others, including Wisconsin, are considering legislation to award the in-state tuition rates to students without lawful citizenship.

Governor Doyle has proposed in his state budget allowing illegal immigrants graduating from Wisconsin high schools to pay in-state tuition at University of Wisconsin schools. This marks the fourth consecutive state budget the governor has included this particular provision.

There is a major problem with states like Wisconsin considering in-state tuition rates for illegal immigrants. If
Wisconsin begins giving in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants, the state is then required to charge the same rates to all U.S. citizens from all other states under the Illegal Immigrant Reform and Immigrant Reconciliation Act (IIRIRA) of 1996.

Section 505 of the IIRIRA states that “An alien who is not lawfully present in the United States shall not be eligible on the basis of residence within a State…for any postsecondary benefit unless a citizen or nation of the United States is eligible for such a benefit (in no less an amount, duration, and scope) without regard to whether the citizen or national is such a resident.”

Here are more details from the Wisconsin State Journal and the Christian Science Monitor. 

I oppose Governor Doyle’s state budget provision to allow illegal immigrants to receive in-state tuition rates.

State Budget Watch: Policy items

State budget


The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) has found 80 non-fiscal, policy items contained in Governor Doyle’s proposed 2009-11 state budget (Assembly Bill 75).

The LFB used the following criteria to determine if a provision falls under the category of non-fiscal, policy:

1) The item has no state fiscal effect

2) If there is a fiscal effect, the policy implications outweigh any fiscal effect

3) The item has been, or is, the subject of separate, non-budget legislation

4) The item is one that typically would be reviewed by standing legislative committee

5) The item could be accomplished without statutory order such as a report, study, and audit. 

T
he 80 items identified by the LFB should be removed from the governor’s budget bill and be debated as separate pieces of legislation.

The list is contained in this LFB memo.

The Joint Finance Committee responded by removing 45 of the items from the committee’s budget deliberations.

Please listen to Scott Hansen

News you can use


I first blogged about Scott Hansen during May 2008. Hansen, the victim of a near tragic accident, was the subject of an emotional piece by WISN-TV Channel 12 and state Department of Transportation (DOT) public service announcements urging motorists to obey the Move Over Law. 

Scott Hansen is back, recounting that horrendous day for Milwaukee TV news stations to convey an important message during this, Work Zone Awareness Week In Wisconsin.

Watch Gus Gnorski’s report on Fox 6 News. 

Here is more information from the DOT.

State Budget Watch: While the private sector chops, Governor Doyle looks to spend

State budget

USA Today reports what all too many Americans unfortunately have come to realize.  There is a growing trend of companies slashing or eliminating employee benefits, and workers have little confidence the pendulum will swing anytime soon. The newspaper writes:

“Health care costs for employees have been rising for years, but perks and benefits such as cost-of-living increases, pension plans, bonuses, 401(k) contributions and tuition reimbursement are now being looked at as places to save millions of dollars. Given the massive savings for employers, many workers have doubts about when — or if — such items will ever fully or partially return.”

While the private sector nationwide cuts back on benefits, Governor Doyle is proposing new and increased benefits for some state employees.

The governor would improve benefits for some school workers. 
He also has proposed extending domestic partner benefits to state employees. 

Also, consider this cost-saving topic being discussed in many statehouses given the current recession: pension reform. The Associated Press (AP) reports:

Pensions need $270 billion in additional contributions over the next four years, and more than $100 billion annually for two decades hence, according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College." The AP quotes one financial officer who says taxpayers fear they will be charged the tab for public pensions, and they oppose increasing taxes as a means of payment.

Apparently Governor Doyle isn’t listening, given his proposals to increase the amount of state benefits while private businesses have been forced to reconsider their benefit expenditures.

Read more about companies cutting back on benefits here and taxpayers calling for pension reform here.

REMINDER: Important DOT meeting in New Berlin Thursday

News you can use


A public information meeting to discuss the reconstruction of the County Y (Racine Avenue) and I-43 interchange in Waukesha County will be held Thursday night in New Berlin.

Here are the details.

I-94 NORTH-SOUTH update

News you can use

Here is an update for this week from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) for the I-94 NORTH-SOUTH freeway project:

Construction update April 8 – April 12:
I-94 North-South Freeway Project update in Milwaukee County

All closures are weather-dependent and subject to change.  Highlighted items are new or changed since last report.

 THURSDAY, APRIL 9 

Double lane closures on I-894/I-43 eastbound at 27th St. 9:30 p.m. - 2 a.m.
Lane closures at 20th St/College Ave. intersection. 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Lane closures at 13th St/College Ave. intersection. 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.


FRIDAY, APRIL 10

Lane closures at 20th St/College Ave. intersection. 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Lane closures at 20th St/College Ave. intersection. 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.



SATURDAY, APRIL 11

Closures cancelled,will be rescheduled to April 17 with new times:
Full closure of I-94 west (northbound) at College Avenue. 12:01.a.m. - 9 a.m.
Single lane closure of I-94 east (southbound) from the Airport Spur to College Ave.12:01 a.m. - 9 a.m. 


SUNDAY, APRIL 12

Closures cancelled, will be rescheduled to April 18 with new times:
Full closure of I-94 WEST (northbound) at College Avenue.12:01.a.m. - 9 a.m.
Single lane closure of I-94 EAST (southbound) from the Airport Spur to College Ave. 12:01 a.m. - 9 a.m. 


LONG TERM CLOSURES

Bolivar Ave. median at 27th St. will close for six weeks starting Monday, April 13. There will be no left turns allowed at the intersection during this closure and E-W traffic will not be allowed to cross 27th Street. 
I-894/I-43 WB exit ramp to 27th Street Until Late July
27th St entrance ramp to I-894/I-43 EB Until Late July     
27th St NB entrance loop ramp to I-894 WB Until Late July
I-894/I-43 WB right lane closure between Mitchell Interchange and 27th St.Until Late July
Single lane closures on NB and SB 27th Street between Layton Ave. and Bottsford Ave - both directions of traffic will run on the 27th St. SB bridge over I-894 (two lanes in each direction) Until Late July
Full closure of College Ave from 15th St. to 20th Street Until November 2009
Full closure of Grange Ave from 15th St. to 20th St. Until November 2009

State Budget Watch: Policy items in Governor Doyle’s budget need to be tossed

State budget


The Wheeler Report
 has done a marvelous job comparing the non-fiscal policy items that are in Governor Doyle’s proposed 2009-11 state budget as determined by the legislative Fiscal Bureau to those policy items that were removed from budget consideration by the co-chairs of the Joint Finance Committee. I believe all non-fiscal, policy items should be taken out of budget negotiations and debated as separate pieces of legislation.

Thank you to Dick Wheeler and his staff for compiling this great information:


LIST OF NON-FISCAL ITEMS IN BUDGET RELEASED
Fiscal Bureau Director Bob Lang released a list of 80 non-fiscal policy items contained in the Governor’s proposed budget.  Below is the list of items using the following criteria: 1.) generally, the item has no state fiscal effect; 2.) if there is a state fiscal effect associated with an item, the policy implications of the provision outweigh any potential fiscal effect; 3.) the item has been, or is, the subject of separate, non-budget legislation; 4.) the item is one that typically would be reviewed by a standing committee of the Legislature; and 5.) the provision could be accomplished without statutory directive, such as reports, studies, and audits. 

Co-Chairs Miller and Pocan asked Fiscal Bureau to review the list using the following criteria: 1.) the item has no effect on state appropriations or state or local revenues in the 2009-11 biennium; or 2.) the provisions could be accomplished without statutory directive, such as reports, studies, and audit.  The items in italics below are the eleven items that meet the non-fiscal policy, but not the modified criteria of the co-chairs.

In a memo from the co-chairs, 45 items have been identified as non-fiscal policy and will not be addressed with the budget, “but should be considered as non-budget legislation by other standing committees.”  Those 45 items are underlined below.  All items not underlined will be considered as part of the budget in the Joint Finance Committee.

General Agency Provisions
  • Reassignment of Executive Branch Employees (Page 38, #20)
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis (Page 39, #21)
  • Prohibit Use of Private Aircraft for Out-of-State Travel (Page 39, #22)
Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection
  • Technical Statutory Changes (Page 104, #26)
Budget Management and Compensation Reserves
  • Repeal Obsolete Provisions Relating to State GPR Spending Limit (Page 118, #8)
Building Commission
  • State Building Contracting and Construction Procedures (Page 120, #3)
Children and Families
  • Children and Families: Child Welfare Alternative Response Pilot Program (Page 141, #8)
  • Economic Support and Child Care: W-2 Agency Requirements (Page 155, #4)
Circuit Courts
  • Expunging Record of Conviction (Page 177, #6)
Commerce
  • Economic Development: Commerce Authority Under Eminent Domain (Page 196, #17)
  • Housing, Buildings, and Environmental Regulation: Landlord Proceeds from Sale of Abandoned Tenant Property (Page 200, #8)
  • Housing, Buildings, and Environmental Regulation: Repeal Building Inspector Review Board (Page 200, #9)
Employee Trust Funds
  • Retirement Eligibility for Educational Support Personnel (Page 237, #7)
  • Early Retirement Creditable Service Calculations for Certain Part-Time Employees (Page 238, #8)
  • Wellness and Disease Management Programs (Page 238, #10)
Employment Relations Commission
  • Repeal QEO Provisions (Page 240, #4 and #5 and Page 526, #1)
  • Duration of Collective Bargaining Agreements for School District Employees (Page 241, #6)
  • Combining Collective Bargaining Units of School District Employees (Page 241, #7)
  • Weighting of Factors Considered in Arbitration Awards for School District Employees (Page 241, #8)
  • Technical Correction to Definition of Collective Bargaining (Page 243, #9)
General Fund Taxes
  • Excise Taxes and Regulation of Tobacco: Direct Marketing of Cigarettes and Tobacco Products (Page 285, #4)
General Provisions
  • Contributory Negligence (Page 304, #1)
  • Establishment of Domestic Partnership and Related Rights and Benefits (Page 304, #2)
  • City of Milwaukee Appropriation Obligation Bonding Authority (Page 315, #3)
  • Restrictions on Smoking (Page 322, #4 and Page 355, #6)
Health Services
  • Departmentwide: Eliminate Certain Required Reports (Page 340, #13)
  • Medical Assistance and FoodShare Administration: Consolidation Enrollment for Public Benefits Programs (Page 373, #8)
  • Care Facilities: Escorts for Sexually Violent Persons During the First Year of Supervised Release (Page 383, #3)
  • Care Facilities: Treatment to Competency (Page 384, #14)
  • Care Facilities: Supplementary Mental Examinations (Page 384, #15)
  • Quality Assurance, Disabilities, and Substance Abuse: Wisconsin Quality Home Care (Page 385, #1)
  • Quality Assurance, Disabilities, and Substance Abuse: Contesting Actions and Receiverships (Page 392, #6)
  • Quality Assurance, Disabilities, and Substance Abuse: Nursing Home Bed Transfer (Page 393, #7)
Insurance
  • Health Insurance Coverage: Coverage Requirements for Dependents (Page 417, #11)
  • Independent Review of Coverage Denial Determinations and Rescissions (Page 417, #12)
  • Individual Health Policies: Modifications at Renewals (Page 418, #13)
  • Individual Health Insurance Policies: Preexisting Condition Exclusions (Page 419, #14)
  • Individual Health Insurance Policies: Uniform Application (Page 419, #15)
  • Individual Health Insurance Policies: Cancellation and Rescission Reports (Page 420, #16)
  • Motor Vehicle Insurance: Uninsured, Underinsured and Medical Payments Coverage (Page 420, #17)
  • Motor Vehicle Insurance: Umbrella and Excess Liability Insurance (Page 421, #18)
  • Motor Vehicle Insurance: Proof of Financial Responsibility (Page 422, #19)
  • Motor Vehicle Insurance: Prohibited Policy Provisions (Page 422, #20)
Justice
  • Collection of Traffic Stop Data (Page 434, #13)
Medical College of Wisconsin
  • Eliminate Certain Reporting Requirements (Page 442, #4)
Natural Resources
  • Departmentwide: Land Program Title Change (Page 460, #15)
  • Air, Waste, and Contaminated Land: Local Recycling Program Variances (Page 486, #6)
Office of State Employment Relations
  • Collective Bargaining Rights for UW System Faculty and Academic Staff (Page 494, #5 and Page 661, #23)
Public Instruction
  • School District Operations: High School Graduation Requirements (Page 526, #2)
  • School District Operations: Consolidated District Board Membership (Page 526, #3)
  • School District Operations: LRB Bill Draft on MPS Operations (Page 527, #4)
  • Choice and Charter: Milwaukee Parental Choice Program – Assessments, Promotion, and Standards (Page 528, #3)
  • Choice and Charter: Milwaukee Parental Choice Program – School Accreditation (Page 530, #4)
  • Choice and Charter: Milwaukee Parental Choice Program – Staff Credentials (Page 531, #5)
  • Choice and Charter: Milwaukee Parental Choice Program – Hours of Pupil Instruction (Page 531, #6)
  • Choice and Charter: Milwaukee Parental Choice Program – Provision of Information (Page 531, #7)
  • Choice and Charter: Milwaukee Parental Choice Program – Pupil Records (page 533, #8)
  • Choice and Charter: Milwaukee Parental Choice Program – Pupil participation in Religious Activities (Page 533, #9)
  • Choice and Charter: Milwaukee Parental Choice Program – Priority Under Enrollment Limit (Page 534, #10)
Public Service Commission
  • Immediate Savings Energy Efficiency Program (Page 543, #6)
  • Filing Extension for Public Utility Balance Sheets (Page 544, #7)
  • Review of Telecommunication Depreciation (Page 545, #9)
  • Telecommunications Reports by the PSC (Page 545, #10)
  • Review of USF Rules (Page 546, #11)
Revenue
  • Tax Administration: Tax Appeals Commission Standard of Review (Page 563, #14)
Shared Revenue and Tax Relief
  • Property Tax Credits: First Dollar Credit – Distribution of Credits to Counties (Page 571, #3)
  • Property Tax Credits: First Dollar Credit – Installment Payments (Page 572, #4)
  • Property Taxation: Property Tax Exemptions for Biotechnology and Manufacturing Research (Page 582, #2)
  • Property Taxation: Review of Assessments by Class of Property (Page 583, #3)
  • Property Taxation: County Property Tax Assessment Program (Page 584, #4)
  • Local Revenue Options: Expansion of Premier Resort Area Tax (Page 585, #1)
Transportation
  • Local Transportation Assistance: Regional Transit Authorities (Page 607, #2)
  • State Highway Program: Design-Build Contracting for Highway Improvement Projects (Page 629, #9)
  • State Highway Program: Appeals in Eminent Domain Proceedings (Page 629, #10)
  • Motor Vehicles: Milwaukee Brewers License Plate (Page 641, #14)
  • State Patrol: Photo Enforcement of Traffic Light and Work Zone Speed Violations (Page 646, #8)
University of Wisconsin
  • Eliminate Certain Reporting Requirements for the UW Medical School (Page 661, #24)
Workforce Development
  • Workers Compensation: Work Injury Supplemental Benefit Fund Claims (Page 690, #13)
  • Equal Rights: Dismissal of Complaints for Probable Cause (Page 693, #18)
  • Equal Rights Labor Standards: Local and Municipal Public Works Project Prevailing Wage Applicability Thresholds, Records, and Publicly Funded Private Construction Projects (Page 695, #19)
Items not on the original Fiscal Bureau Memo to be removed:
  • Commerce: Economic Development: Minority Business Certification Definition Modification (Page 195, #16)
  • Commerce: Housing, Buildings, and Environmental Regulation: PECFA Eligibility Notification Deadline (Page 197, #3)
  • Employee Trust Funds: Wellness and Disease Management Programs (Page 238, #10)
  • Health Services: Public Health: Audit of Grants for Dental Services (Page 378, #9)
 

State Budget Watch: Your property taxes

State budget, Taxes

 

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) has released a memo with its calculations that property taxes for the average Wisconsin home would increase $91 on bills this December and an additional $134 next year under Governor Doyle’s proposed state 2009-11 state budget.

The property tax increase would be 3.2 percent this year and 4.5 percent next year.

Here is the LFB memo.

Earn-a-buck put on hold, for now

News you can use


At the upcoming Conservation Congress meetings, one of the hot topics of contention surely would have been the state’s Earn-a-Buck program.

Wisconsin Outdoor News reports, “The earn-a-buck program forces hunters to shoot antlerless deer before taking a buck. It's designed as a population-control measure, but many hunters despise it because it forces them to pass up trophy kills.” 

Earn-a Buck may not be as controversial after all at this year’s meetings. I received this information from the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR):


April 9, 2009
Contact: Tom Hauge, Wildlife Management Director, (608) 266-2193;
Mark Aquino, Acting Lands Deputy Administrator (608) 267-7472

DNR recommends one year moratorium on Earn-a-Buck program outside Chronic Wasting Disease zones 

MADISON – Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Secretary Matt Frank today announced the department will recommend a one-year moratorium on the Earn-a-Buck program outside of the Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) zone for the 2009 deer hunt. Additionally, DNR is recommending 40 deer management units that had the October antlerless hunt last year (without Earn-a-Buck) will now have a regular hunting season for 2009.

“Deer hunting is a rich tradition in Wisconsin, and the DNR takes our role in protecting this important part of our heritage very seriously,” Secretary Frank said. “In light of the recommendation from the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, and the concerns of hunters expressed at annual DMU (deer management unit) meetings across the state and two legislative hearings sponsored by Sen. Holperin and Rep. Hraychuck, the DNR is recommending a one year moratorium on the use of Earn-a-Buck in DMUs outside of the CWD zone for the 2009 hunting season. Retaining Earn-a-Buck within the CWD zone maintains our commitment to controlling the spread of CWD by reducing local deer populations.”

The Conservation Congress Big Game Study Committee reviewed the department’s deer season proposal.  The committee recommended a one year moratorium on Earn-a-Buck (except in CWD zones) and that all recommended Earn-a-Buck units be changed to Herd Control (October hunt) units. The Big Game Study Committee was clear that if, during this moratorium, the deer herd increased, Earn-a-Buck would return in 2010.

“We made additional efforts this year to gather hunter and public input,” Secretary Frank said. “We expanded our information collection methods to include over 40 public meetings around the state and more than twice as many people attended herd status meetings this year than last. For the first time, we offered an online survey, which was completed by over 6,000 people.”

Hunter frustration with the fall 2008 hunt was particularly pronounced this year, aggravating fundamental concerns with Earn-a-Buck. These final recommendations reflect feedback received from the Conservation Congress, the DNR’s herd status meetings and the new online survey.

Deer populations were lower than anticipated in fall of 2008. The impacts of the harsh winter weather and the late, cool spring reduced fawn production and deer survival more than anticipated.

“We have taken action in response to avoid the problems encountered last season and improve our science base for decision making,” Secretary Frank said. “One of the steps we have already taken is to establish more stations to measure winter severity and have a more complete picture of winter impact on fawn production and deer survival.”

Deer population goals are established to ensure a healthy deer herd and habitat for the long term, ensuring the preservation of our great hunting traditions for future generations. A deer herd above a healthy population goal stunts forest regeneration and causes significant crop damage.

“Our population goals are also designed to protect the long-term vitality and economic viability of our forests and our agriculture lands,” Secretary Frank said. “By achieving the right balance, we preserve Wisconsin’s great deer hunting tradition for generations to come, and maintain hunting, forestry and agriculture as key components of Wisconsin’s economy.”

During the moratorium, the DNR proposes to work with the Congress, the Natural Resources Board, hunters, landowners and the public to consider potential changes to Earn-a-Buck or consider other herd control measures that effectively move the herd towards population goals. This year coincides with the regularly scheduled three year review of deer population goals that will provide additional opportunity for public input. 


The Sheboygan Press has editorialized in favor of scrapping Earn-a-Buck.

I urge all concerned parties to attend a Conservation Congress meeting in their county.

The Wall Street Journal, again, jabs Wisconsin


Wisconsin
is again in the national spotlight, and again, for undesirable reasons. 

The Wall Street Journal calls out the Badger State as one of ten states “considering some kind of major increase in sales or income taxes.” 

This is not the first time the Wall Street Journal has been critical of how Wisconsin governs:

1) Senate Democrats are at it again 

2)
Tapping, i.e., taxing high earners 

3) Taxes go up, people move out

State Audit: Administering federal assistance

Audits

The highly-acclaimed Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) has completed a review of the state’s administration of billions of dollars in federal financial assistance. The LAB found that, “Overall, state agencies have properly administered federal grant programs and complied with federal requirements.”

Even so, the LAB reports it uncovered, “several new and continuing internal control deficiencies and areas of federal noncompliance.”

During fiscal year 2007-08, state agencies administered $10 billion in federal financial assistance through more than 1,600 federal programs and grants, including 963 research and development grants awarded to the University of Wisconsin (UW) System. The LAB concentrated its review on
23 programs, chosen for their size and potential risk of noncompliance. The programs selected made 74.8 percent of the state’s federal financial assistance during 2007-08.

The LAB found that, “Three UW campuses were not timely in requesting federal reimbursement. For example, as a result of our audit work at UW-Madison, we identified $6.7 million in federal funds the State could claim as reimbursement for financial aid disbursed to students. We also
identified concerns with timeliness of  requests for federal reimbursement at UW-Milwaukee and UW -Oshkosh. We estimate the State lost $183,500 in interest earnings as a result of the untimely requests of the three campuses.”

A reimbursement problem was also discovered at DWD. The LAB writes, “We have renewed concerns with DWD’s process for claiming federal reimbursement for the cost of vocational rehabilitation services provided to individuals who also received federal disability benefits.
As a result of our audit, DWD either plans to claim or has already claimed an additional $227,167 from the federal government.”

DWD also had problems with idle facilities. Before the audit, the Division of Unemployment Insurance (UI) was given three additional rooms in a state office building to use two new computer systems for administering the UI program. After one of the computer systems was
developed, two of the three rooms became vacant during November 2005. However, DWD kept charging rental fees for the two idle rooms to the UI grant program from November 2005 through October 2006. During November 2006, DWD started charging rental fees for the two empty rooms to other sources. Then, for reasons unknown, during August 2008, DWD returned to charging the UI grant program for the second room that continues to be idle. A total of $11,612 for space rental costs for the second room was charged to the UI grant program from August 2008 through December 2008.

The LAB does not question any costs for the two rooms because the UI grant program was not charged any unallowable costs. However, The LAB notes the e second room is not currently being used by the UI grant program. So, DWD will need to transfer any unallowable idle space rental costs during fiscal year 2008-09 to cover appropriate funding sources.

The third room became empty during March 2007 after a second computer system project was ended. DWD continued to charge space rental costs to the UI grant program from March 2007 through July 2008. However, only space rental costs from March 2007 through February 2008 are allowable costs of the UI grant program. The LAB questions $26,483, representing idle space rental costs that DWD charged the UI grant program from March 2008 through June 2008. A total of $38,095 will be repaid by DWD.

The LAB had issues with the Foster Care-Title IV-E program. Two of ten licensed foster care providers chosen for scrutiny had not completed criminal background checks. After a review of all providers required to conduct background checks since July 1, 2007, two more providers were
found that had not completed the proper criminal background checks.

UW-Milwaukee uses the Foster Care-Title IV-E program to encourage students to seek child welfare careers. The LAB found that UWM charged the foster care program twice for tuition payments. There was a subsequent overbilling of $112,923. Documentation of the students
fulfilling the necessary requirements for post-graduate employment was, according to the LAB, “lacking.” UWM intends to return the money.

The LAB also cites continuing problems with the Department of Administration’s (DOA’s) billing rates that have resulted in the state compiling excess cash balances, stating, “During FY 2007-08, $2.2 million was lapsed from an internal fund to the General Fund. We question $449,645, representing the federal government’s share related to this lapse, which will have to be repaid to the federal government, possibly with interest.”

The LAB’s concern is that this has been going on for several years:

“Since FY 2002-03, DOA has returned a total of $39.3 million to the federal government related to excess balances and lapses from the internal service funds. The returned funds could otherwise have been spent for federal program purposes.”

In all, the LAB is making 35 recommendations to help improve the state’s administration of federal assistance.

Here is the breakdown on the federal assistance the state administered during fiscal year 2007-08:

$8.8 billion: cash assistance

$1.2 billion: outstanding federal loan balances

$66.4 million: noncash assistance, including food commodities.

The state has received an increase in federal financial assistance of almost $700 million since fiscal year 2003-04. The increases have been primarily in the areas of Medicaid, food stamps, and unemployment insurance. The bulk of the federal assistance, 95 percent, is expended
by five state agencies:

1) The Department of Health and Family Services (DHFS), now the Department of Health Services (DHS) and the Department of Children and Families (DCF): $4 billion (Medical Assistance, food stamps, health insurance for children).

2) Department of Workforce Development (DWD): $1.6 billion (unemployment insurance, vocational rehabilitation programs)

3) UW System: $1.3 billion (student financial aid, research and development grants)

4) Department of Transportation (DOT): $759.9 million (Highway Planning and Construction program)

5) Department of Public Instruction (DPI): $707.4 million (local schools, nutrition programs for children)

All other state agencies: $449.4 million

The LAB is aware that the state stands to receive a substantial amount of federal stimulus dollars and makes this pledge:

“We will be monitoring the State’s administration of these additional funds. In future audits, we will review compliance with federal requirements for their use.”

Here is the entire LAB audit report. 

As a member of the Legislative Joint Audit Committee, I once again commend the LAB for its outstanding work on behalf of Wisconsin taxpayers.

He was the wrong sex and color


A constituent asked me if I was aware of an e-mail sent to WTMJ Radio’s Charlie Sykes by Greg Grambow about the response he received when he applied for a position on the Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) Board.

I was not only aware of Grambow’s e-mail to Sykes, I saw and heard Grambow discuss his situation four days before Sykes posted the e-mail on his website.

Grambow was the second to last speaker at a meeting of the WISCONSIN JOBS NOW TASK FORCE in Brown Deer on Monday, March 23, 2009. During his testimony, Grambow relayed his experience with MATC, saying he was informed that he was, “the wrong sex and color” for the position. Grambow referred to the response as, “institutional bias.”

My office made an inquiry of the Wisconsin Technical College System Policy Advisor about the appointment process for MATC Board members. Here is her response.


Section 38.10, Wis. Stats, defines the appointment process for district board members.  This includes s. 38.10(2)(c), Wis. Stats., which establishes the requirement that an appointment committee formulate a plan of representation for district board appointments.  I've copied s. 38.10(2)(c), Wis. Stats., below:  

(c) At the meeting and prior to the appointment of district board members, the appointment committee shall formulate a plan of representation for the membership of the district board.

The plan shall give equal consideration to the general population distribution within the district and the distribution of women and minorities within the district. The plan of representation for the membership of the district board that governs a district encompassing a 1st class city shall also give equal consideration to the distribution of minorities within the 1st class city. The plan shall form the basis upon which membership of the district board is determined. The board shall review district board appointments to determine whether they comply with the provisions of the plan and the requirements of s. 38.08 (1) (a).

These requirements are in addition to those in s. 38.08, Wis. Stats., which specify the composition and organization of district boards including the appointment of employers, employees, a school district administrator, a state or local elected official and additional members.

I've include a copy of MATC's plan of representation. 


If I can provide any additional assistance, please let me know.


Sincerely,


Nancy Merrill, Policy Advisor
WTC System Office


MATC PLAN OF REPRESENTATION FOR APPOINTMENT OF BOARD MEMBERS
as of March 21, 2009

Equal consideration will be given to the general population distribution of the district, the distribution of women in the district, and the distribution of women and minorities within the district and the City of Milwaukee (see attached).

For the purposes of appointing MATC Board Members, the MATC District is divided into three geographical areas based on school districts (see attached map and tables).  Board members will be appointed from the geographical areas as follows (minimum requirements):

City of Milwaukee                  4 members

North Suburban                      1 member

South Suburban                      1 member

North or South Suburban      1 member

Additional (any area)              2 members

At least 2 of the members from the City of Milwaukee must be minorities, with a total of at least 3 minority members overall; and at least 3 members shall be women and at least 3 members shall be men, in each case excluding the school district administrator member.

Note: All candidates are eligible to apply for and be considered in the Additional Member category.


I concur with Grambow and with my constituent that the reaction Grambow, a qualified applicant, received from MATC smacks of discrimination.

“Expect to start paying more”

Taxes


MSN Money has an interactive map showing where the states rank on gasoline, cigarette, beer and sales taxes. On three of the four Wisconsin has some of the highest taxes in the nation.

MSN Money predicts there will be a push in many states to increase the so-called “sin” taxes to address budget shortfalls. As MSN Money puts it, “no matter where you live, expect to start paying more.”

You can read more here.

How Americans feel about taxes

Taxes


The nonpartisan Tax Foundation in Washington D.C. has released the results of a national poll about taxes, perfectly timed for the April 15 tax filing deadline.

Here are some of the findings:

A majority of U.S. adults think that federal income taxes are "too high."
Most say the tax code is complex.
Most say the tax code needs to be revised.
Republicans are more likely to say that their federal income tax bill was too high than Democrats.
Republicans are willing to pay more for services than Democrats.
The estate tax is viewed as the most unfair federal tax.
At the local level, the gas tax is considered the most unfair.
Most adults say that everyone should be required to pay some minimum amount of tax to help fund the government.
There is strong opposition to taxes on food and drink considered unhealthy.  

Here are complete details on the Tax Foundation survey results.

HAPPY EASTER!


To be sure, Easter is spring colors and bright, shiny new clothes and bunnies and chocolate eggs and big dinners and family time. Easter is all of that, and more.

This Sunday, we celebrate Jesus Christ’s triumph over death that paved the way for eternal life. The Resurrection clearly demonstrated this preacher was not an ordinary man and that his adult ministry was true.

The incredible miracle of over 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ’s glorious rising from the most brutal, humiliating death is the reason we mark this most sacred day of the year. Millions of Americans will send a loud message this Sunday that we are, indeed, a Christian nation as they gather to worship and celebrate the Easter liturgy.

I wish you and your familly a most blessed and joyous Easter.

I-94 NORTH-SOUTH update

News you can use


Here is an update from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) for the I-94 NORTH-SOUTH freeway project:

Construction update April 12- April 19:
I-94 North-South Freeway Project update in Milwaukee County
All closures are weather-dependent and subject to change


MONDAY, APRIL 13

Lane Closures of Howell Ave. NB & SB from Grange Ave. to Layton Ave. Non-peak 4/13 - Mid May
Lane Closures of Howell Ave. NB & SB from Layton Ave. to Howard Ave. Non-peak 4/13 - Mid May
Median Closure at intersection of Bolivar Ave. and 27th St. intersection 4/13 - June
WIS 158 entrance ramp to I-94 WEST (NB) 4/13 -  late June
I-94 WEST (NB) exit to WIS 158 4/13 - late June
East Frontage Rd at WIS 158 4/13 - late June
Double lane closures on I-894/I-43 westbound at 27th St. 9:30 p.m. - 2 a.m.
20th Street Bridge over I-894/I-43 alternating lane closures NB & SB 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Single Lane Closure of Rawson Ave. EB from 13th St. to 6th St. 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.


TUESDAY, APRIL 14

Single Lane Closure I-894/I-43 EB at 27th St. 9:30 p.m. - 5:30 a.m.
20th Street Bridge over I-894/I-43 alternating lane closures NB & SB 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Double Lane Closure Howell Ave. NB from Grange Ave. to Layton Ave. 7 p.m. - 6 a.m.
Single Lane Closure of Rawson Ave. EB from 13th St. to 6th St. 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.


WEDNESDAY, APRIL 15

Single Lane Closure I-894/I-43 EB at 27th St. 9:30 p.m. - 5:30 a.m.
Double Lane Closure Howell Ave. NB from Grange Ave. to Layton Ave. 7 p.m. - 6 a.m.
Lane Closures and Traffic Signal Replacement at 27th St. & Layton Ave 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. (4-way stop will be in effect)
20th Street Bridge over I-894/I-43 alternating lane closures NB & SB 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Single Lane Closure of Rawson Ave. EB from 13th St. to 6th St. 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.


THURSDAY, APRIL 16

Double Lane Closures Howell Ave. NB from Grange Ave. to Layton Ave. 7 p.m. - 6 a.m.
Lane Closures and Traffic Signal Removal at 27th St. & Layton Ave. 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Single Lane Closure of Rawson Ave. EB from 13th St. to 6th St. 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.


FRIDAY, APRIL 17

Full closure of I-94 WEST (NB) at College Avenue 11 p.m. - 9 a.m.
Double Lane Closure of I-94 EAST (SB) at College Ave 11 p.m. - 9 a.m.
Single Lane Closure I-894/I-43 EB at 27th St. 9:30 p.m. - 5:30 a.m.
Lane Closures at 27th St. & Layton Ave. intersection 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Single Lane Closure of Rawson Ave. EB from 13th St. to 6th St. 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.


SATURDAY, APRIL 18

Full closure of I-94 WEST (NB) at College Ave 11 p.m. - 9 a.m.
Double Lane Closure of I-94 EAST (SB) at College Ave 11 p.m. - 9 a.m.
Single Lane Closure Howell Ave. NB from Grange Ave. to Layton Ave. 7 p.m. - 6 a.m.


SUNDAY, APRIL 19

Only long term closures in effect

LONG TERM CLOSURES

I-894/I-43 WB exit ramp to 27th Street Until Late July
27th St entrance ramp to I-894/I-43 EB Until Late July
27th St NB entrance loop ramp to I-894 WB Until Late July
I-894/I-43 WB right lane closure between Mitchell Interchange and 27th St. Until Late July
Single lane closures on NB and SB 27th Street between Layton Ave. and Bottsford Ave - both directions of traffic will run on the 27th St. SB bridge over I-894 (two lanes in each direction) Until Late July
Full closure of College Ave from 15th St. to 20th Street Until November
Full closure of Grange Ave from 15th St. to 20th St. Until November
Single Lane Closures of Howell Ave. NB & SB from Grange Ave. to Layton Ave. Non-peak beginning 4/13 through Mid May
Single Lane Closures of Howell Ave. NB & SB from Layton Ave. to Howard Ave. Non-peak beginning 4/13 through Mid May
Median Closure at Bolivar & 27th St. intersection beginning 4/13 through 5/24
WIS 158 entrance ramp to I-94 WEST (NB) 4/13 -  late June
I-94 WEST (NB) exit to WIS 158 4/13 - late June
East Frontage Rd at WIS 158 4/13 - late June

It is time for the annual New Berlin Lioness Champagne Breakfast

Good news from Senate District 28


The New Berlin Lioness will host their 32nd Annual Champagne Breakfast this Sunday, April 19, 2009. The breakfast will be served from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Holy Apostles School Gymnasium in New Berlin located at 3875 S 159th Street.

The top-notch menu includes the Lioness’ famous fruit pancake rollups with vanilla sauce, scrambled eggs, hot ham, pork sausage, hash browns, fresh fruit, rolls, butter, coffee, juices, milk, champagne, plus homemade desserts.

All proceeds go to an outstanding cause, the Wisconsin Lions Foundation Camp at Rosholt, Wisconsin. 

Since 1956, the Wisconsin Lions Camp has provided quality camping experiences to Wisconsin residents with disabilities free of charge.

Advance tickets for the breakfast are $9 for adults, $9.50 at the door, $2.50 for children under 12, free for children under 5, and include everything on the menu.

Call 262-786-5735 or 262-786-4449 for ticket information.

Thank you for your support of the New Berlin Lioness Annual Champagne Breakfast!

The T word

Taxes


The nation’s #1 expert on taxes, the nonpartisan Tax Foundation in Washington D.C., has released a new report on American attitudes about several tax issues based on a recent nationwide survey. The Tax Foundation finds that tax complexity, tax fairness, and tax burdens remain areas of concern for American taxpayers.

Not surprisingly, 56 percent believe the amount of federal income taxes paid is too high while 33 percent believe the amount is just right. Yes, there is a percentage of Americans that claims taxes are too low: two percent.

Taxpayers living in the Great Lakes region are most likely to say their federal income taxes are too high, 61 percent. Also most likely to make this claim are those aged 45-54 (67 percent), those earning between $35,000 and $50,000 (63 percent), those earning $75,000 and above (62 percent), and married couples (60 percent).

When asked,
“What is the maximum percentage of a person’s income that should go to taxes – that is, all taxes, state, federal and local?” the average response is 15.6 percent.  The average adult with a high school diploma supports a low average tax rate of 12.6 percent.  The average adult with a graduate degree or more supports a high average tax rate of 22.9 percent. However, the key point to ponder, as the Tax Foundation emphasizes, is that the nation’s actual average total tax burden is 28.2 percent of income.

The Tax Foundation asked Americans how much they would be willing to pay for every government service they use in a year. The average figure given is $7,635.The average male adult is willing to shell out just over $9,500 for all government services. The average female adult is a lot thriftier, only willing to pay about $5,700.  Taxpayers in the Farm Belt would be willing to pay just over $2,700 for government services while those who live on the Pacific Coast would be willing to pay just over $10,000. Compare these figures with overall government spending. The Tax Foundation says during fiscal year 2006, total spending from federal, state and local governments amounted to over $4.7 trillion, or nearly $16,000 per capita.

Conclusion: the federal government is taxing far more than most taxpayers are willing to pay.  Those with taxing authority in Washington place more value on government services than taxpayers do.

So, should government do more or less? Two years, the last time the Tax Foundation conducted its tax survey, 41 percent of adults thought that taxes and services should be kept about where they were. Today, only 36 percent feel that way. During 2007, 32 percent said the federal government should decrease services and lower taxes. Today, 34 percent want to see services decreased and taxes lowered. Are you paying attention, Washington?

On the issue of tax fairness, respondents said that at the federal level, the estate tax was the least fair, followed by the gas tax, federal income taxes and corporate income taxes, and Social Security payroll taxes.  At the state and local level, the gas tax is considered the least fair followed by local property taxes, motor vehicle taxes, state income taxes, retail sales taxes, and cigarette, beer and wine taxes. 

A record 85 percent say the federal income tax is very complex or somewhat complex. Only 1 percent of respondents say that federal taxes are not complex at all, and 8 percent say they’re “not too complex.” A record 82 percent say the federal tax code should be completely overhauled.

Major tax and fiscal issues are under review by the White House and Congress. Washington officials would be wise to seriously consider the prevailing attitudes of those who pay the bills.

Update: Conservation Congress meetings


Conservation Congress meetings about wildlife issues were held in all 72 counties Monday. The Green Bay Press-Gazette reports that in Brown County, most hunters voiced frustrations about the Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) handling of the deer herd and the controversial earn-a buck program.

The Appleton Post-Crescent 
reports that other issues discussed included fishing hooks with barbs, reductions in walleye populations, and  limiting the number of hunters eligible for disabled hunting permits.

Thousands attended the meetings across the state to vote on 91 wildlife policy questions. Results will be posted on the DNR website Wednesday.


UPDATE from the Associated Press

Update on I-94 project in Waukesha

News you can use


I have received this update from the state Department of Transportation (DOT) about the I-94 project in Waukesha County:

I-94 project scheduled to resume at Calhoun Road in Waukesha County 

Work is rescheduled to resume this week on the I-94 project at Calhoun Road in Waukesha County, announced the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT).  

The project started in the summer of 2008 to reconstruct both I-94 bridges over Calhoun Road and is expected to be finished by late September.

The total cost of the entire, two-year project is estimated at $7.5million.
 

The project will replace the existing I-94 bridges over Calhoun Road and reconstruct I-94 pavement on either side of the new bridge. Project improvements include: a new overhead variable message sign for westbound I-94; a new barrier wall; and a new signing/striping. 

The bridge will be able to handle four-lanes of traffic in the future.  

The project will remain open to traffic during construction, with three lanes of traffic in each direction during the construction of the eastbound bridge.  

The contractor, Lunda Construction Company will complete the project by September 15, 2009, weather permitting. 

A combination of local and state funds will pay for the project.

State Budget Watch: Unconstitutional?

State budget


Governor Doyle’s proposed 2009-11 state budget includes a provision to create a statewide same sex domestic partner registry. Doyle’s proposal comes despite the fact that Wisconsin’s constitution bans same sex marriage and bans legal status for other forms of same sex relationships.

That has led critics, including me, to question the constitutionality of the governor’s proposal. The Wisconsin State Journal delves into the issue, and quotes Julaine Appling, chief executive officer of the Wisconsin Family Council. I agree with Julaine Appling’s comment, “This is an attempt to create marriage by another name.”

Here is the Wisconsin State Journal article
.

Follow the money, indeed

Taxes


The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is running an ongoing series of reports called, “Following the money: How stimulus funds are being spent.”

Today’s article in the series reports that Governor Doyle and other Midwest governors want to use $3.4 billion in stimulus funding to build three high speed rail routes: Chicago to the Twin Cities, Chicago-to-St. Louis and Chicago-to-Detroit. The Chicago to the Twin Cities route would include a Milwaukee to Madison segment.

Here are the details. 

Other publications around the country are also keeping track of how your tax dollars are being spent under the stimulus umbrella. Here are a few examples:


$75 million to repave three miles of rough pavement on Interstate 710 in Los Angeles. That is $25 million/mile. 

Ohio wants millions, not to build road projects, but to study them.

Beach sand replenishment  

A
nti-suicide bridge 

Stimulus money for casinos 

Bridge connecting two Microsoft campuses 

And the kicker: Stimulus jobs going to illegal immigrants 


This entire concept is supposed to stimulate the economy and create sustaining jobs? It sounds like America was sold a bill of goods.

The Big Read is this Saturday in Mukwonago

Good news from Senate District 28


Mary Blott of the Mukwonago Chamber of Commerce informs me that this Saturday, April 18, 2009, the Elegant Farmer will host, “The Big Read,” a program sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts intended to inspire Americans to pick up a good book. The book featured at “The Big Read” will be To Kill a Mockingbird.

A mockingbird –calling contest will be part of the celebration with $650 in prizes. Registration for the mockingbird-calling contest is open by calling 262-472-6224. Participants are challenged to creatively interpret the classic book.

“The Big Read” takes place at the Elegant Farmer this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, click here.

Would you be willing to pay the federal government $8,798?

Taxes


The nonpartisan Tax Foundation in Washington D.C. has just released the results of its 2009 nationwide survey on attitudes of American taxpayers. The survey was conducted
between February 18 and 27, 2009 among 2,002 adults (aged 18 or older).

As part of the survey, taxpayers were asked if they would be willing, in order to balance the budget, to pay their share of the federal budget deficit. The last time the Tax Foundation conducted this survey during 2007, the figure was $1,789 per individual tax return. This year, due to the federal bailouts, the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), stimulus spending and fiscal year 2009 omnibus spending bills, that figure has increased significantly, 392 percent, to $8,798 per individual tax return.

Care to guess what percentage of American taxpayers admitted they were willing to pay $8,798 in order to help balance the federal budget deficit? Try six percent with 81 percent unwilling, and 12 percent unsure.

The Tax Foundation asked those willing to pay $8,798 an additional question: “If you paid that extra $8,798 in additional taxes, how do you believe today’s Congress would use it?”

About half, 48 percent said the government would use the money to increase spending and not pay off the deficit, and 17 percent believed the government would use the money to pay off the entire deficit. About one-third, 32 percent thought the government would pay off a portion of the deficit and use the rest of the money to increase spending.

I am not surprised American taxpayers are unwilling to pay a huge chunk to fix the budget boondoggle Washington created and proliferated, and that they lack the confidence that Washington would fix the deficit even with the ability to do so.

Non-paying taxpayers


Millions of income-tax filers in America do not have federal income tax liability. After credits and deductions are taken, 45.6 million or one-third of all filers pay zero federal income tax, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

The nonpartisan Tax Foundation in Washington D.C. has just released the results of its 2009 nationwide survey on attitudes of American taxpayers. The survey was conducted between February 18 and 27, 2009 among 2,002 adults (aged 18 or older). The Tax Foundation asked taxpayers if it was fair that so many Americans pay Uncle Sam nothing.

Two-thirds, 66 percent, responded that everyone should pay a minimum amount of tax to help fund the federal government. Only 19 percent believe it is fair that some do not pay any taxes. During 2007, the last time the Tax Foundation conducted its survey, 24 percent thought it was fair that some taxpayers fail to have any tax liability.

Almost three-fourths of adults 55 years and older, 73 percent think that everyone should be required to pay some minimum amount of tax, and 56 percent of those 18-34 years of age agree.

Taxpayers with incomes of $75,000 and above, 72 percent believe it is unfair that millions have no tax liability. For those with incomes of $35,000 and less, it drops to 58 percent.

The Tax Foundation asked a new question in its 2009 survey about redistribution of wealth. A little over half, 52 percent support a higher tax on higher wage earners, 31 percent oppose. The question posed was very general: “Would you support or oppose the government redistributing wealth by a much higher income tax on high income earners?”

The Tax Foundation concludes that the issue of the redistribution of wealth is definitely polarizing.

Major differences of opinion about taxes

Taxes


When it comes to Americans’ views about taxes, there is a stark contrast between political parties and ideologies.

The nonpartisan Tax Foundation in Washington D.C. has just released the results of its 2009 nationwide survey on attitudes of American taxpayers. The survey was conducted between February 18 and 27, 2009 among 2,002 adults (aged 18 or older).

This year, the Tax Foundation for the first time asked respondents to give their party affiliation from four choices: Republican, Democrat, Independent and Other.  Respondents were also asked to identify their political philosophy: conservative, moderate and liberal.

You will note the difference of opinion from the answers given by the various groups.

Tax Burdens

Republicans are more inclined to believe their federal income tax bill is too high, 61 percent, than Democrats, 51 percent. Independents are at 61 percent.

Two-thirds, 66 percent of conservatives say their federal income tax is too high, moderates, 55 percent, liberals, 44 percent. A slightly higher percentage of liberals, 45 percent believe their income tax bills are just right.

What about the maximum percentage of income that should go to all taxes?

Democrats say 17 percent, Republicans, 14.4 percent, Independents, 14.8 percent. The average percentage for liberals was 18.9 percent, moderates, 15.1 percent, conservatives, 14.4 percent.

Government Services and Spending

Respondents were asked how much they would be willing to pay in a year for all government services.

Republicans would pay an average of $9,985, Democrats, $7,616, Independents, $5,805, moderates, $8,171, liberals, $7,714 and conservatives, $6,668.

Republicans, 46 percent, and Independents, 42 percent, are more likely to support a decrease in services and lower taxes than keeping taxes and services where they are (35 percent for Republicans, 29 percent for Independents).

For Democrats, the numbers are much different, with 44 percent wanting to keep taxes and services where they are, and 21 percent wanting to decrease services and taxes.

More liberals, 35 percent, and moderates, 42 percent want to keep services and taxes where they are than want to decrease services and taxes (23 percent, liberals, 27 percent, moderates).

Over half, 54 percent of conservatives support a decrease in services and taxes, 27 percent want to keep taxes and services where they are.

What about increasing services and raising taxes?

Democrats are more likely to want to do both at 16 percent than Independents, 12 percent, and Republicans, two percent, liberals, 23 percent, moderates, 10 percent, and conservatives, three percent.

Tax Deductions and the Estate Tax

Respondents were asked if they would be willing to sacrifice some deductions in return for an across the board cut in federal income tax rates.

Republicans were more likely to be in support, 51 percent than Democrats, 40 percent and Independents, 45 percent.

More conservatives like the idea, 51 percent than liberals, 40 percent, and moderates, 41 percent.

Respondents were asked if they support the total elimination of the estate tax. Republicans overwhelmingly said yes, 79 percent compared to Democrats, 55 percent. Independents came in at 74 percent.  Support among conservatives was 81 percent, liberals, 50 percent, moderates, 65 percent.

Fairness of “Non-Payers” and Wealth Redistribution

Respondents were asked if it is fair or unfair that millions of filers have no federal income tax liability after credits and deductions.Three-fourths, 75 percent of Republicans said all should be required to pay some minimum amount of tax compared to 63 percent of Democrats and 65 percent of Independents, 75 percent of conservatives, 49 percent of liberals, and 67 percent of moderates.

Democrats, 74 percent, and Independents, 53 percent like the idea of higher tax rates for higher wage-earners while 58 percent of Republicans oppose. Liberals, 74 percent, and moderates, 60 percent, support the idea, and 57 percent of conservatives oppose.

Turkey hunters, beware

News you can use

 

Here is an important update to my recent blog about the turkey hunting season that just opened. 

The state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reports that wildfire conditions are in the High to Very High range.

The DNR has issued warnings to turkey hunters.

NY the first example of how the stimulus works

Taxes


My blog of January 27, 2009, “Congress does not have the magic wand to help the states,” reported several forecasts that the huge federal stimulus package would not solve the budget crises afflicting all 50 states. We now have hard, cold evidence, at least from one state, that those predictions are true.

New York is the first state to approve a state budget that uses federal economic stimulus money, and look at what has happened. New York accepted its entire stimulus allotment, approximately $7.2 billion. Despite the newfound pot of money, New York raised taxes and layoffs are planned by the state and at schools, local governments, and hospitals.

New York’s budget deficit during January 2009 was $13.7 billion. Stateline reports, “
New York’s latest official forecast is for an out-year deficit of $11 billion.”

If New York is any indication, the stimulus package only makes fiscal matters worse for the states.

Read more in Stateline.

Reaffirming our sovereignty

Legislation


I am the co-sponsor of Senate Resolution 6 (SR 6) that reaffirms Wisconsin’s sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment. SR 6 reads in part:

“Whereas, the legislature has forwarded to the federal government numerous resolutions opposing federal encroachment on state powers but has received no response or result from Congress or the federal government; and

Whereas, many federal mandates are directly in violation of the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States; and

Whereas, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in New York v. United States, 112 S. Ct. 2408 (1992) that Congress may not simply commandeer the legislative and regulatory processes of the states; and

Whereas, a number of federal proposals from previous administrations and some now pending from the present administration and from Congress may further violate the U.S. Constitution; now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the senate, That the senate hereby claims sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States over all powers not otherwise enumerated and granted to the federal government by the U.S. Constitution; and, be it further

Resolved, That this resolution shall serve as notice and demand to the federal government, as our agent, to cease and desist, effective immediately, mandates that are beyond the scope of its constitutionally delegated powers.”

Read SR 6. 

The timing of SR 6 is necessitated by the federal government’s blatant encroachment into state affairs that must be curtailed and the need to send a strong message to Washington.

Columnist Ben Shapiro has noticed the trend of eroding state’s rights. Shapiro writes:

“The federal government took control of abortion policy. It took control of tax policy, blaming the states for ‘regressive’ laissez-faire doctrine. It took control of education and health care. And states, eager for federal cash, largely acceded in the shift toward federal power. Now states are surprised to find that their ability to resist federal directives has been all but extinguished.“

Shapiro recommends that states refuse stimulus money because, “If they do not, federal government will, once and for all, become a government of unlimited powers. And the laboratories of democracy will be closed down once and for all in the name of nationalized leftism.”

You can read Shapiro’s column here. 

Reminder: New Berlin Lioness Annual Champagne Breakfast


The New Berlin Lioness will host their 32nd Annual Champagne Breakfast this Sunday, April 19, 2009. The breakfast will be served from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Holy Apostles School Gymnasium in New Berlin located at 3875 S 159th Street.

The top-notch menu includes the Lioness’ famous fruit pancake rollups with vanilla sauce, scrambled eggs, hot ham, pork sausage, hash browns, fresh fruit, rolls, butter, coffee, juices, milk, champagne, plus homemade desserts.

All proceeds go to an outstanding cause, the Wisconsin Lions Foundation Camp at Rosholt, Wisconsin. 

Since 1956, the Wisconsin Lions Camp has provided quality camping experiences to Wisconsin residents with disabilities free of charge.

Advance tickets for the breakfast are $9 for adults, $9.50 at the door, $2.50 for children under 12, free for children under 5, and include everything on the menu.

Call 262-786-5735 or 262-786-4449 for ticket information.

Thank you for your support of the New Berlin Lioness Annual Champagne Breakfast!

A follow-up question, please?

Gambling, Taxes


The nonpartisan Tax Foundation in Washington D.C. has just released the results of its 2009 nationwide survey on attitudes of American taxpayers. The survey was conducted between February 18 and 27, 2009 among 2,002 adults (aged 18 or older).

For the first time, this question was posed to taxpayers:

“Currently, most state governments raise revenue through government-run gambling operations, such as lotteries, keno games and video lottery terminals (which offer casino- type games such as poker, blackjack and slots), for the purpose of general government spending. In general, do you favor or oppose such government-run gambling operations?”

Here are the results:

27 percent: somewhat supportive

26 percent: strongly supportive

12 percent: strongly oppose

10 percent: somewhat opposed

I am not surprised that over half of the respondents approve of state-run lotteries. The Tax Foundation reports, “State-run lotteries are the most popular form of commercial gambling in the U.S., with half or more Americans participating in any given year. In 2008, total consumer spending on lotteries was over $60 billion – or $199 per capita– and in 2004 the average American spent more money on lotteries than on reading materials and movie theater tickets combined.”

During June 2008, I blogged that most states, including Wisconsin, are hooked on gambling. 

However, I have to wonder what the results of the Tax Foundation survey might have been if there had been a follow-up to their single, very general question about lotteries. For example, what if the Tax Foundation had added a second question like this:

“Would you favor or oppose government-run gambling operations if the social costs associated with this type of gambling exceeded government-run gambling -related tax relief?”

There are tremendous costs to the families of troubled gamblers. There are financial loses. Serious problem gamblers lose or quit their jobs, steal money to support their gambling habit, think about and actually plan suicide, and some even make suicide attempts. Children of problem gamblers develop behavior and adjustment problems suffering from depression, anxiety, and cynicism.

A Wisconsin Policy Research Institute study in 1996 reported the average serious problem gambler imposed costs close to $10,000 upon Wisconsin each year with a total annual social cost impact of over $307 million. That was during 1996. The number of problem gamblers has increased since, so the societal cost has also increased.

A July 2008 audit of the Wisconsin lottery by the Legislative Audit Bureau found that property tax relief totaled $697.9 million over the past five fiscal years, including $160.0 million in 2006-07.

Social cost of gambling: over $307 million/yr

Property tax relief for the latest year available: $160 million

The social costs far outweigh the gain in property tax relief. However, the state gambling genie is out of the bottle and will probably never return.

State Budget Watch: The ball is now in JFC’s court

State budget


Here is the current status of deliberations on the 2009-11 state budget.

Governor Doyle proposed his budget a few months ago and the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee (JFC) held public hearings around the state. Thursday, the JFC began reviewing and voting on the various provisions contained in the budget.

A motion was made by Republicans on the JFC to remove 40 non-fiscal policy items from the budget negotiations, including the repeal of the Qualified Economic Offer (QEO), the creation of domestic partner benefits, mandated car insurance rate increases, revising standards for private choice schools, and establishing regional transit authorities. The vote to remove these policy measures from the budget failed, 3-12.

The JFC voted 14-1 to give law enforcement throughout the state to use primary enforcement of the seat belt law. If the measure becomes law, the state stands to receive upwards of $18 million in federal aid.

First, primary enforcement of the seat belt law should be debated outside the state budget as a separate piece of legislation and second, it should be decided upon based on its merits, not because the feds are dangling aid in front of our noses.

The JFC agreed to keep the forfeiture for not wearing a seat belt at $10. Governor Doyle wants to increase the forfeiture to $25.

T
he committee voted 12-3 to increase fees for investment advisers from $30 to $70 and increase fees paid by businesses that register securities in Wisconsin from $750 to $1,250.

After the JFC completes its work, the budget will be considered by the state Senate and state Assembly. Both houses must pass an identical version of the budget before it is sent to Governor Doyle for his consideration.

If the budget increases taxes and spending, and there is a strong possibility it will, I will vote against it.

State Audit: Agency overtime

Audits


Twenty-five employees of state agencies in Wisconsin, including 15 Department of Corrections (DOC) correctional officers and correctional sergeants and 10 Department of Health Services staff each earned more than $50,000 in premium overtime in addition to their regular wages during 2008. That information is contained in an audit of overtime in state agencies prepared by the Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB).

The review concentrated on premium overtime that is paid at 1.5 times an employee’s regular hourly rate.  The LAB found that the most premium overtime during 2008 was $97,800, paid to a nurse clinician at Mendota Mental Health Institute. The employee averaged about 80 hours of overtime for each two-week pay period.

A chart provided by the LAB shows another nurse clinician at the Central Wisconsin Center received $103,062 in premium overtime during 2007 and $85,818 in premium overtime during 2008.

The audit also discovered that the same 10 positions were paid the highest premium overtime payments during the last four years. About 4,000 DOC employees comprised almost half, 48.1 percent of all 2008 premium overtime payments.

Four state agencies account for the most premium overtime primarily because they operate 24-hours and respond to emergencies: the Department of Corrections (DOC), the Department of Health Services, the Department of Transportation (DOT), and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).The LAB found that only the DOC’s premium overtime payments decreased during 2008.

Overall, Wisconsin spent $66.5 million on premium overtime during 2008, 2.2 percent more than 2007.

The LAB had asked DOC and DHS to submit options for reducing overtime to the Legislative Joint Audit Committee by January 5, 2009. Both agencies have requested more time to complete their reports.

As a member of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, I once again commend the LAB for its consistent, excellent work on behalf of taxpayers. You can see the  LAB’s full report here. 

It pays to have friends in the White House

Taxes


According to Stateline, the Obama administration has given its approval to $6.5 billion of the $27.5 billion in federal stimulus funding for highways and bridges.

Which state leads the way in number of projects and amount of federal funding?

Is it New York?

California?

Texas?

Alaska?

Wisconsin??!!!

Are you kidding?

The correct answer is…..are you sitting down?

ILLINOIS!

Illinois has 249 approved projects and over $606 million in federal funding.

Wisconsin has 43 approved projects and just under $129 million in federal funding.

Stateline 
reports, “Obama and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood both represented Illinois on Capitol Hill, but the administration says favoritism didn’t play a role in the state's landing the lion’s share of the projects and funding so far.”

I-94 NORTH-SOUTH update

News you can use


Here is an update from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) for the I-94 NORTH-SOUTH freeway project:

Listed below are all scheduled major closures on the I-94 N-S Freeway project for the week of April 20 -26.

MONDAY, APRIL 20
I-94 EAST (SB) Exit Ramp to Airport Spur Full Closure   9:30 p.m. – 5:30 a.m.

Airport Spur WB Entrance Ramps at Howell Ave  Full Closure   9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.

I-94 EAST (SB)/WEST (NB) Double Lane Closures at College Ave.   9:30 p.m. – 5:30 a.m.

TUESDAY, APRIL 21
I-94 EAST (SB) Exit Ramp to Airport Spur Full Closure   9:30 p.m. – 5:30 a.m.

Airport Spur WB Entrance Ramps at Howell Ave Full Closure   9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.

I-94 EAST (SB)/WEST (NB) Double Lane Closures at College Ave.   9:30 p.m. – 5:30 a.m.

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 22
I-94 EAST (SB)/WEST (NB) Double Lane Closures at College Ave.   9:30 p.m. – 5:30 a.m.

27th St. and Layton Ave. Intersection Single Lane Closures   9 a.m. – 2 p.m.
(4-Way Stop will be in effect)

THURSDAY, APRIL 23
I-94 WEST (NB)/EAST (SB) Full Freeway Closure at County G  11:59 p.m. – 12:30 a.m.

Median Closure at Whitaker Ave. & 27th St. Intersection  4/23 – June 

FRIDAY, APRIL 24

SATURDAY, APRIL 25

SUNDAY, APRIL 26
 
LONG TERM CLOSURES

I-894/I-43 WB exit ramp to 27th Street     Until Late July

27th St entrance ramp to I-894/I-43 EB    Until Late July     

27th St NB entrance loop ramp to I-894 WB   Until Late July

I-894/I-43 WB right lane closure between Mitchell Interchange and 27th St  Until Late July

Single lane closures on NB and SB 27th Street between Layton Ave. and Bottsford Ave - both directions of traffic will run on the 27th St. SB bridge over I-894 (two lanes in each direction) Until Late July

Full closure of College Ave from 15th St. to 20th St. Until November

Full closure of Grange Ave from 15th St. to 20th St. Until November

Single Lane Closures of Howell Ave. NB & SB from Grange Ave. to Layton Ave.  Until June

Single Lane Closures of Howell Ave. NB & SB from Layton Ave. to Howard Ave. Until June

Median Closure at Bolivar & 27th St. Intersection Until June

Median Closure at Whitaker Ave & 27th St Intersection Until June

Single Lane Closure of 27th Street NB from Bottsford Ave to Bolivar Ave 4/13-5/18

Rawson Ave. Single Lane Closure at 13th St.   4/20 to Mid May

Rawson Ave. NB/SB Single Lane Closures at Howell Ave.  4/20 to May

I-94 WEST (NB) exit ramp to WIS 158 Until Late June

WIS 158 entrance ramp to I-94 WEST (NB) Until Late June

East Frontage Rd at WIS 158 Until Late June

Congratulations, St. James of Mukwonago!

Good news from Senate District 28


I have blogged about St. James in Mukwonago participating in a national contest, the Lexus Eco Challenge. 

Laurel Walker of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has written a very nice column with word that the students of St. James did very well in this environmental contest:

They've collected a cool $40,000 in prize winnings for themselves and their school from the Lexus Eco Challenge, a national philanthropic effort aimed at helping youths make a difference. On Wednesday, they'll present what they did to earn it, and what they hope the rest of us will do by way of recycling, at a 7 p.m. Earth Day presentation at the school.”

Here is Walker’s column. 

C
ongratulations to Mrs. Marsha Grutzmacher and the 8th grade class of St. James, Mukwonago!

The AG offers advice on open carry


Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has issued a memo offering guidance to the state’s district attorneys about the right to openly carry firearms.

You can read the details here.

Read more from the Journal Sentinel.

Taxes are just too tough

Taxes


All last week, I blogged about the findings of the Tax Foundation’s 2009 nationwide survey on attitudes of American taxpayers.

Former senior adviser to President George W. Bush, Karl Rove writes in the Wall Street Journal, “It hasn't gotten a ton of attention, but people are fed up with the complexity of their tax code and ready to do something about it.”

Rove is correct. The Tax Foundation conducted its s
urvey between February 18 and 27, 2009 among 2,002 adults (aged 18 or older). One of the questions the Tax Foundation asked respondents was about tax complexity:

“How complex do you think the current federal income tax is?”

The response was a record for the Tax Foundation as 85 percent say the federal income tax is very complex or somewhat complex, up from 83 percent during the tax Foundation’s last nationwide survey conducted during 2007. Only 1 percent say that federal taxes are not complex at all, and 8 percent say they’re “not too complex.”

A subsequent question asked if Congress should reform the federal tax code. Again, it was a record response with 82 percent saying, “It should be completely overhauled” or “It needs major changes.” That is up from 78 percent during 2007. Another 12 percent say that “it needs minor changes” and only two percent say “it is fine the way it is.”

The Philadelphia Bulletin 
wrote last week:

One of the most obvious reasons to reform the current tax code is its sheer complexity. The code is over 60,000 pages and includes more than 1,100 forms and supplemental publications. Experts estimate that the total time Americans spend to file all of their paperwork is 6.6 billion hours. Many pay hundreds of dollars annually to pay tax professionals to file their returns, and businesses pay even more. ‘The present tax code is about 10 times longer than the Bible, a lot more complicated, and, unlike the Bible, contains no good news,’ joked former Sen. Don Nickles.”

Here is the complete report on the Tax Foundation 2009 survey.

State Senate calendar for Thursday, April 23, 2009

Here is the calendar for the state Senate floor session scheduled for  Thursday, April 23, 2009 at 11:00 a.m.: 

First Order.      Call of Roll.
Second Order. Chief clerk's entries.
Third Order.     Introduction, first reading and reference of proposals.
Fourth Order.   Report of committees.
Fifth Order.      Petitions and communications.
Sixth Order.     Referrals and receipt of committee reports concerning proposed administrative rules.
Seventh Order. Advice and consent of the Senate.

QUESTION:        Shall the appointment be confirmed?

Axtell, Roger, of Janesville, as a member of the UW Hospitals and Clinics Authority and Board, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2010. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 4, Noes 3)

Bicha, Reggie, of Eau Claire, as Secretary of the Department of Children and Families, to serve for the term ending at the pleasure of the Governor. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Children and Families and Workforce Development, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

Canter, Richard, of Milwaukee, as a member of the Wisconsin Health and Educational Facilities Authority, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2015. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Davis, Stan, of Sun Prairie, as a member of the Wisconsin Technical College System Board, to serve for the term ending May 1, 2009. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Small Business, Emergency Preparedness, Technical Colleges, and Consumer Protection, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

Erickson, Terrance, of La Crosse, as a member of the Wisconsin Technical College System Board, to serve for the term ending May 1, 2011. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Small Business, Emergency Preparedness, Technical Colleges, and Consumer Protection, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

Flaherty, Kevin, of Milwaukee, as a member of the Wisconsin Health and Educational Facilities Authority, to serve for the term ending on July 1, 2010. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Geenen, Jon, of Kaukauna, as a member of the Wisconsin Technical College System Board, to serve for the term ending May 1, 2009. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Small Business, Emergency Preparedness, Technical Colleges, and Consumer Protection, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

Johnson, Ruth, of Madison, as a member of the Examining Board of Architects, Landscape Architects, Professional Engineers, Designers and Land Surveyors, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2011. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Economic Development, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Le Grand, Roger, of La Crosse, as a member of the Tax Appeals Commission, to serve for the term ending March 1, 2015. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Munro, Ian, of Green Bay, as a member of the Medical Examining Board, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2011. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Neuenfeldt, Phillip, of Milwaukee, as a member of the Wisconsin Technical College System Board, to serve for the term ending May 1, 2013. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Small Business, Emergency Preparedness, Technical Colleges, and Consumer Protection, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

Sanchez, Pablo, of Madison, as a member of the UW Hospitals and Clinics Authority and Board, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2012. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Schneider, Kathleen, of Minocqua, as a member of the Chiropractic Examining Board, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2012. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Underbakke, Gail, of Madison, as a member of the Dietitians Affiliated Credentialing Board, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2011. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Wasserman, Sheldon, of Milwaukee, as a member of the Medical Examining Board, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2009. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Weiden, Mike, of Madison, as a member of the UW Hospitals and Clinics Authority Board, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2011. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 4, Noes 3)

Eighth Order.  Messages from the Assembly.

QUESTION:        Shall the Assembly amendment be concurred in?

Senate Bill 12. Relating to: the operation of motorboats, other than personal watercraft, at slow-no-wake speed within a given distance of the shoreline of a lake. (FE)  (Received from Assembly amended and concurred in as amended, Assembly amendment 1 adopted) Assembly Amendment 1 pending

Senate Bill 37. Relating to: payment of judgments in traffic courts and municipal courts by installments and the suspension of operating privileges. (FE)   (Received from Assembly amended and concurred in as amended, Assembly amendment 1 adopted) Assembly Amendment 1 pending

Ninth Order.   Special Orders.
Tenth Order.   Consideration of motions, resolutions, and joint resolutions not requiring a third reading.

QUESTION:        Shall the joint resolution be adopted?

Senate Joint Resolution 24. Relating to: proclaiming May as American Stroke Month. 

Senate Joint Resolution 25. Relating to: the commemoration of The Progressive magazine's 100th anniversary. 

Senate Joint Resolution 28. Relating to: proclaiming April 22, 2009, as Undergraduate Research Day and commending University of Wisconsin System students, faculty, and staff. 

QUESTION:        Shall the joint resolution be concurred in?

Assembly Joint Resolution 28. Relating to: commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway. 

Assembly Joint Resolution 34. Relating to: the life and public service of James A. McCann. 

Assembly Joint Resolution 35. Relating to: commending the Gundersen Lutheran Health System on being recognized as the first medical facility in the nation to achieve a top rating from the National Quality Measures for Breast Centers. 

Eleventh Order.          Second reading and amendments of senate joint resolutions and senate bills.

QUESTION:        Shall the bill be ordered to a third reading?

Senate Bill 27. Relating to: requiring health insurance coverage of hearing aids and cochlear implants for persons under 18 years of age. (FE)   (Report adoption of Senate Amendment 1, Ayes 7, Noes 0, adoption of Senate Amendment 2, Ayes 7, Noes 0, passage as amended recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 6, Noes 1) Senate Amendments 1 and 2 pending

Senate Bill 49. Relating to: changing the procedures for filling vacant civil service positions in the city of Milwaukee. (FE)  (Report passage recommended by committee on Labor, Elections and Urban Affairs, Ayes 4, Noes 1)

Senate Bill 94. Relating to: the licensing and regulation of thermal system insulation mechanics; creating a thermal system insulation council; requiring the employment of a state inspector; establishing standards for installing and maintaining thermal system insulation; requiring the exercise of rule-making authority; making an appropriation; and providing a penalty. (FE)  (Report adoption of Senate Amendment 1, Ayes 5, Noes 0, passage as amended recommended by committee on Labor, Elections and Urban Affairs, Ayes 4, Noes 1) Senate Amendments 1 and 2 pending

Twelfth Order.            Second reading and amendments of assembly joint resolutions and assembly bills.

QUESTION:        Shall the bill be ordered to a third reading?

Assembly Bill 43. Relating to: designating portions of the Totogatic River as a wild river. (FE)   (Report concurrence recommended by committee on Transportation, Tourism, Forestry, and Natural Resources, Ayes 6, Noes 0)

Thirteenth Order.        Third reading of joint resolutions and bills.
Fourteenth Order.       Motions may be offered.
Fifteenth Order.          Announcements, adjournment honors, and remarks under special privilege.
Sixteenth Order.         Adjournment.   

State Budget Watch: Democrats want to add staff to Lt. Gov’s office

State budget


Apparently Democrats running the state Legislature and the governor’s office have not heard about the following:

1) There’s a recession going on.

2) Businesses are laying off workers.

3) Businesses are cutting salaries.

4) All 50 states are facing budget crises, necessitating hiring freezes or workforce reductions.

That must be the only explanation as to why Democrats are insisting an additional staff position be created in the Lieutenant Governor’s office.

Earn-a-buck program suspended


Less than two weeks after hunters at statewide Conservation Congress meetings expressed frustration and anger over the state’s controversial earn-a-buck program, the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board has voted to suspend the program indefinitely.

The Associated Press has details.

I voted against appointees who favor a late-term abortion facility at UW

Mary in the media


On the floor of the state Senate Thursday, I voted against the governor’s appointments of Roger Axtell and Mike Weiden to the UW Hospital and Clinics Board.

As members of the UW Hospital and Clinics Board, Axtell and Weiden on February 4, 2009 voted with the majority as the Board voted 11-3 to go ahead with a second-trimester abortion facility at the Madison Surgery Center (MSC), a joint venture of UW Hospitals and Clinics, the UW Medical Foundation and Meriter Hospital. 

The prospect of aborting healthy and disabled babies as late as 22 weeks is horrific and barbaric.

I concur with the sentiments expressed in a statement issued Thursday by Pro-Life Wisconsin:

“Abortion is not health care. And barbaric late-term abortion procedures that are painful to the baby and dangerous to the mother’s life and health are certainly not health care. By voting for the MSC’s late-term abortion practice, Roger Axtell and Mike Weiden have failed in their duty to provide true health care to those most in need of it: vulnerable women and their even more vulnerable preborn children. They totally ignored life-saving alternatives such as special needs adoption or pre-natal hospice care. Their lack of compassion and concern for the lives of mothers and their preborn children makes them unfit to serve on the board of our state’s flagship hospital.”

I am saddened that Democrats who control the state Senate had enough votes Thursday to confirm these appointments.

Here are more details from the Associated Press.

State Senate passes cochlear implant mandate

Legislation, Mary in the media


On a voice vote Thursday, the state Senate approved a bill that mandates insurance coverage for cochlear implants for children. The state Assembly also approved the bill and Governor Doyle is expected to sign it.

I expressed my reservations on the Senate floor. Wisconsin Radio Network has more.
 

$3 Trillion

Taxes


This is not good.

The New York Times writes that Special Inspector General Neil Barofksy issued an eye-opening report Tuesday that the price tag for TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) has ballooned from $700 billion to $3 TRILLION.

The report describes the bailout program as one of “unprecedented scope, scale and complexity.”  It also warns that there is too little oversight, and too little information about how tax money is being spent.

This opens the door for widespread fraud.

You can read more details in the New York Times.

A blizzard of fees

Taxes


Stateline reports the total of the budget gaps in all 50 states is now over $200 billion.

As a result, many states, including Wisconsin are making bad choices by increasing a number of taxes and fees.

Read more from Stateline.

What is it going to be, Governor?

State budget, Taxes


For quite some time, Governor Doyle has embraced the idea of a so-called assessment on oil companies. The public knows quite well that is doublespeak for a tax, a tax that might be unconstitutional, and if enacted, would only be passed on to consumers at the gas pump. Editorial boards are blasting the idea:

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 

The Wisconsin State Journal 

The Racine Journal-Times 

The governor is now backing off a bit on his ill-advised oil tax scheme and is, instead, open to the idea of a three-cent increase in Wisconsin’s gas tax. 

Problem:

Wisconsin’s gas tax is already one of the highest in the country. The Tax Foundation in Washington D.C. reports Wisconsin's gasoline tax is variable and stands at 32.9 cents per gallon, the nation's 8th highest. 

We do not need an increase in the gas tax. Here is a thought. Maybe the governor should stop raiding the transportation fund and there would not be a need to discuss raising the gas tax.

I am proud to be a sponsor of the latest photo ID bill

Legislation, Photo ID

I have always supported a photo ID requirement for voting.

A new effort is being waged this legislative session in Madison to enact a photo ID law. I am the main Senate co-sponsor of a photo ID bill authored by my colleague state Senator Joe Leibham that will soon be introduced. One of my state Assembly representatives, Jeff Stone is one of the co-authors in the Assembly.

Under our bill, voters would be able to use a valid Wisconsin Driver's License, a valid Wisconsin ID Card or an active military ID to vote or register to vote. State of Wisconsin ID cards would be provided at no cost to individuals who do not have one of these forms of Identification.

Elderly or infirmed voters who either cast their votes via absentee ballots, U.S. mail or vote in a nursing home or community based residential facility that is treated like a nursing home with regards to voting would be allowed to include a signed written statement from a witness verifying their identity in lieu of a copy of a valid photo ID.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s strict photo ID law last year. Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in his opinion that the state of Indiana had legitimate interests in its photo ID law, including, “protecting the integrity and reliabil­ity of the electoral process, deterring and detecting voter fraud,” and safeguarding voter confidence.

A photo ID requirement returns confidence to our system that has been rocked by voter fraud. It ensures that every voter casting a legal ballot is not disenfranchised by a fraudulently cast ballot. Voters across Wisconsin from both parties are clamoring for this common sense public policy. I am very pleased once again to join my colleagues in support of photo ID.

I-94 NORTH-SOUTH update

News you can use


Here is an update from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) for the I-94 NORTH-SOUTH freeway project:

Construction update April 27-May 3:
I-94 North-South Freeway Project update for Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha counties

All closures are weather-dependent and subject to change.
New long-term closures are BOLD. 


MONDAY, APRIL 27

I-894 WB single lane closed between 35th St. and 20th St. 8 p.m.-5:30 a.m.
I-894 EB single lane closed at between 35th St. and 20th St. 9:30 p.m.-5:30 a.m.
Rawson Ave. EB single lane closed between 27th St. to 6th St. 9 a.m-3 p.m.
Howell Ave. NB double lane closures between Grange Ave. and Layton Ave. 7 p.m.- 6 a.m.
27th St and Whitaker Ave. intersection median closed (no left turns) Until Late May


TUESDAY, APRIL 28

I-894 WB single lane closed between 35th St. and 20th St. 8 p.m.-5:30 a.m.
I-894 EB single lane closed between 35th St. and 20th St. 9:30 p.m.-5:30 a.m
Howell Ave. double lane closures between Grange Ave. and Layton Ave. 7 p.m.- 6 a.m.


WEDNESDAY, APRIL 29

I
-894 WB single lane closed at 27th St. 8 p.m.-5:30 a.m.
I-894 EB single lane closed at 27th St. 9:30 p.m.-5:30 a.m
I-94 EB double lane closures at County G  9:30 p.m. – 5:30 a.m.
27th St. and Layton Ave. intersection lane and median restrictions. 9 a.m.-2  p.m.
I-94 WB shoulder closed at Drexel Ave.9 a.m.- 2p.m.
20th St. NB and SB at I-894/I-43 lane restrictions. 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Howell Ave. between Grange and Layton Ave. lane & median restrictions. Until Mid May


THURSDAY, APRIL 30

I-894 WB single lane closed between 35th St. and 20th St. 8 p.m.-5:30 a.m.
I-894 EB single lane closed between 35th St. and 20th St. 9:30 p.m.-5:30 a.m
I-94 WB double lane closures at County G. 9:30 p.m. – 5:30 a.m.
27th St. and Layton Ave. intersection lane and median restrictions. 9 a.m.-2  p.m.
20th St. NB and SB at I-894/I-43 lane restrictions. 9 a.m. – 2 p.m


FRIDAY, MAY 1

I-94 WB fully closed at the Airport Spur. 8:30 p.m.-9:30 a.m.
I-94 EB fully closed at Layton Ave. 8:30 p.m.-9:30 a.m.
Mitchell Interchange connector ramp from I-894 EB to I-94 EB/SB. 8:30 p.m.-9:30 a.m.
I-94 WB single lane closed at Rawson Ave. 8 p.m. – 9:30 a.m.
I-894 WB single lane closed at 27th St. 11 p.m. – 8 a.m.
I-894 EB single lane closed at 27th St. 11 p.m. – 8 a.m.
College Ave. on-ramp to I-94 WB closed. 7:30 p.m.-9:30 a.m.
Rawson Ave. on-ramp to I-94 WB closed. 7:30 p.m.-9:30 a.m.
Airport Spur (WIS 119) WB on-ramps at WIS 38 closed. 7:30 p.m.-9:30 a.m.
L
ayton Ave. on-ramp to I-94 EB closed. 8 p.m. –9:30 a.m.
Airport Spur (WIS 119) WB closed. 7:30 p.m.-9:30 a.m.
I-94 EB / WB single lane closures at County G. 9:30 p.m. – 8 a.m.
27th St. and Layton Ave. intersection lane and median restrictions. 9 a.m.-2  p.m.


SATURDAY, MAY 2

I-94 WB fully closed at the Airport Spur. 8:30 p.m.-9:30 a.m.
I-94 EB fully closed at Layton Ave.8:30 p.m.-9:30 a.m.
Mitchell Interchange connector ramp from I-894 EB to I-94 EB/SB. 8:30 p.m.-9:30 a.m.
I-94 WB single lane closed at Rawson Ave. 8 p.m. – 9:30 a.m.
I-894 WB single lane closed at 27th St. 11 p.m. – 8 a.m.
I-894 EB single lane closed at 27th St. 11 p.m. – 8 a.m.
C
ollege Ave. on-ramp to I-94 WB closed. 7:30 p.m.-9:30 a.m.
Rawson Ave. on-ramp to I-94 WB closed. 7:30 p.m.-9:30 a.m.
Airport Spur (WIS 119) WB on-ramps at WIS 38 closed. 7:30 p.m.-9:30 a.m.
L
ayton Ave. on-ramp to I-94 EB closed. 8 p.m. –9:30 a.m.
Airport Spur (WIS 119) WB closed. 7:30 p.m.-9:30 a.m.


SUNDAY, MAY 3

Only long-term closures in effect.


LONG TERM CLOSURES IN MILWAUKEE COUNTY

I-894/I-43 WB exit ramp to 27th Street. Until Late July
27th St entrance ramp to I-894/I-43 EB. Until Late July
27th St NB entrance loop ramp to I-894 WB. Until Late July
I-894/I-43 WB right lane closure between Mitchell Interchange and 27th St Until Late July
Single lane closures on NB and SB 27th Street between Layton Ave. and Bottsford Ave - both directions of traffic will run on the 27th St. SB bridge over I-894 (two lanes in each direction) Until Late July
Full closure of College Ave from 15th St. to 20th St. Until November
Full closure of Grange Ave from 15th St. to 20th St .Until November
Single Lane Closures of Howell Ave. NB & SB from Grange Ave. to Layton Ave. Until June
Single Lane Closures of Howell Ave. NB & SB from Layton Ave. to Howard Ave. Until June
Median Closure at Bolivar & 27th St. Intersection. Until June
Median Closure at Whitaker Ave & 27th St Intersection. Until June
Lane Closure of 27th Street NB from Bottsford Ave to Bolivar Ave. Until Mid May
Rawson Ave. Single Lane Closure at 13th St. Until Mid May
Rawso
n Ave. EB/WB single Lane Closures at Howell Ave. Until May
27th St and Whitaker Ave. intersection median closed (no left turns) Until Late May
Howell Ave. between Grange and Layton Ave. lane & median restrictions. Until Mid May


LONG TERM CLOSURES IN KENOSHA COUNTY

I-94 WB exit ramp to WIS 158. Until Late June
WIS 158 entrance ramp to I-94 WB. Until Late June
East Frontage Rd at WIS 158. Until Late June

State Senate calendar for Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Here is the calendar for the state Senate floor session scheduled for Tuesday, April 28, 2009 at 11:00 a.m.:

First Order.               Call of Roll.

Second Order.           Chief clerk's entries.

Third Order.              Introduction, first reading and reference of proposals.

Fourth Order.            Report of committees.

Fifth Order.               Petitions and communications.

Sixth Order.               Referrals and receipt of committee reports concerning proposed administrative rules.

Seventh Order.          Advice and consent of the Senate.

Eighth Order.            Messages from the Assembly.

Ninth Order.              Special Orders.

Tenth Order.             Consideration of motions, resolutions, and joint resolutions not requiring a third reading.

QUESTION:        Shall the joint resolution be adopted?

Senate Joint Resolution 23. Relating to: the life and military service of Sergeant Daniel James Thompson.  

Senate Joint Resolution 29. Relating to: the life and military service of Sergeant Clint A. Sikorski.  By Senator Decker; cosponsored by Representative Seidel.

QUESTION:        Shall the joint resolution be concurred in?

Assembly Joint Resolution 42. Relating to: recognizing April 8 as Wellness Day in Wisconsin. 

Assembly Joint Resolution 43. Relating to: proclaiming April 22, 2009, as Undergraduate Research Day and commending University of Wisconsin System students, faculty, and staff. 

Assembly Joint Resolution 44
. Relating to: declaring May 3 to May 9, 2009, to be Vasculitis Awareness Week. 

Assembly Joint Resolution 46. Relating to: declaring May 2009 as Drug Court Month. 

Assembly Joint Resolution 47. Relating to: the life and public service of John L. Merkt.  By Representative J. Ott.

Eleventh Order.         Second reading and amendments of senate joint resolutions and senate bills.

QUESTION:        Shall the bill be ordered to a third reading?

Senate Bill 20. Relating to: authorizing the circuit court to order a person who engages in discrimination in employment to pay compensatory and punitive damages and a surcharge and making an appropriation.  (Report adoption of Senate Substitute Amendment 1, Ayes 3, Noes 2, passage as amended recommended by committee on Labor, Elections and Urban Affairs, Ayes 3, Noes 2) Senate Substitute Amendment 1 pending

Senate Bill 29. Relating to: passing parked motor vehicles and opening motor vehicle doors on highways and providing a penalty. (Report passage recommended by committee on Transportation, Tourism, Forestry, and Natural Resources, Ayes 4, Noes 3) Senate Amendment 2 pending

Senate Bill 46. Relating to: arbitration and fair-share agreements during collective bargaining negotiations under the Municipal Employment Relations Act.  (Report passage recommended by committee on Labor, Elections and Urban Affairs, Ayes 3, Noes 2)

Senate Bill 91. Relating to: the use of cellular telephones and other devices while operating certain motor vehicles transporting children and providing a penalty. (Report adoption of Senate Amendment 1, Ayes 6, Noes 0, passage as amended recommended by committee on Transportation, Tourism, Forestry, and Natural Resources, Ayes 6, Noes 0)     Senate Amendment 1 pending

Senate Bill 97. Relating to: authorizing temporary permits to practice dentistry or dental hygiene without compensation.  (Report passage recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Senate Bill 126. Relating to: changes to and extension of the Environmental Results Program, extension of the Environmental Improvement Program and the length of a compliance schedule under that program, and reporting requirements for certain environmental programs.  (Report passage recommended by committee on Environment, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

Senate Bill 141. Relating to: requiring certain vehicles that transport children to and from a child care provider to have child safety alarms installed, granting rule-making authority, extending the time limit for emergency rule procedures, providing an exemption from emergency rule procedures, and providing a penalty.  (Report adoption of Senate Amendment 1, Ayes 5, Noes 0, adoption of Senate Amendment 2, Ayes 5, Noes 0, adoption of Senate Amendment 3, Ayes 5, Noes 0, passage as amended recommended by committee on Children and Families and Workforce Development, Ayes 5, Noes 0)  Senate Amendments 1, 2 and 3 pending

Senate Bill 161. Relating to: administration of certain public assistance programs in Milwaukee County, removing county civil service protections from certain employees, required provisions in certain collective bargaining agreements under the Municipal Employment Relations Act, and making an appropriation.  (Report passage recommended by committee on Labor, Elections and Urban Affairs, Ayes 3, Noes 2)

Twelfth Order.          Second reading and amendments of assembly joint resolutions and assembly bills.

Thirteenth Order.     Third reading of joint resolutions and bills.

Fourteenth Order.     Motions may be offered.

Fifteenth Order.        Announcements, adjournment honors, and remarks under special privilege.

Sixteenth Order.        Adjournment.

Wisconsin is monitoring swine flu outbreak


The Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs has issued the following release:

At approximately 11:30 a.m. today [Sunday, April 26] the U.S. Department of Homeland Security declared a public health emergency in response to recent Swine Influenza A (H1N1) outbreaks in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

State of Wisconsin officials, led by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), have been monitoring the situation since Friday and continue to observe this situation very closely.  Guidance for health care and public health agencies has been distributed and surveillance for possible cases has been intensified.  

At this time there are no reported cases in Wisconsin but officials will hold a press conference, Monday, 10 a.m. in the State Emergency Operation Centers, 2400 Wright St., and give an update of the situation and to advise the public on flu prevention.

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention has detailed information about the current status of the situation and prevention measures at:
http://www.cdc.gov/flu/swine/index.htm
– a link can also be found at the Wisconsin DHS, Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security websites.

To learn more about influenza, visit: http://dhs.wisconsin.gov/communicable/influenza/index.htm.

I commend the Franklin Common Council and Franklin Police Chief Oliva

State budget


I agree wholeheartedly with the Franklin Common Council’s recent vote to oppose a provision in Governor Doyle’s proposed 2009-11 state budget that would impose new traffic- stop record- keeping responsibilities on local law enforcement departments in counties with populations of 125,000 or more starting in 2011.

The requirement is an unfunded sate mandate because data collected by authorities would have to go into a new software program and then submitted to the state Department of Justice. Police departments would have to pay for the new software.

This provision is one of 80 measures in the governor’s budget that was identified by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau as a non-fiscal policy item, and as such, should be removed from budget deliberations and reviewed as a separate piece of legislation. The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee that is now considering the state budget refused to do so.

Whether the traffic stop data collection requirement remains in the budget or not, I join Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen and police chiefs across the state in opposition.

I concur with the Franklin Common Council and Franklin Police Chief Rick Oliva that the provision could violate the constitutional rights of citizens and would be impractical.

I commend Chief Oliva for expressing his opposition to the Franklin Common Council, and I commend the Council members for their unified stance against this item in the governor’s proposed budget.

Public hearing on youth hunting legislation

News you can use


The state Assembly’s Committee on Fish and Wildlife will hold a public
hearing on Assembly Bill 222 (AB 222) that sets a minimum age for hunting and for possessing a firearm, and restrictions on hunting and on possessing a firearm while hunting. Here is an analysis of the AB 222 from the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau:

This bill makes various changes to the laws relating to restrictions on hunting and firearm possession and establishes a hunting mentorship program.

Accompaniment by parent or guardian

Under current law, a person who is the minimum hunting age but under the age of 16 may hunt or have a firearm in his or her possession or control if the person is accompanied by a parent or guardian and if he or she meets certain other requirements. This bill specifies that such a person may also hunt or have a firearm in his or her possession or control if the person is accompanied by an individual who is at least 18 years old and who has been designated by the person’s parent or guardian.

Mentorship program

Current law requires, with certain exceptions, that every person who obtains a hunting approval must have a certificate of accomplishment issued by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) indicating that he or she has successfully completed the hunter education program or bow hunter education program established by DNR. Current law also generally prohibits hunting and firearm possession by any person under the age of 12. For persons who are at least 12 years old, but under the age of 16, current law allows hunting and firearm possession but imposes certain restrictions that vary depending on the person’s age.

This bill creates a new exception to the general requirement that a person obtain a certificate of accomplishment in order to obtain a hunting approval. The bill also lowers the minimum hunting age from 12 years of age to ten years of age for persons who hunt under the hunting mentorship program established in this bill.  The bill authorizes a person who is at least ten years of age to hunt without obtaining a certificate of accomplishment and to possess or control a firearm while hunting if the person has a valid hunting approval and is hunting with a qualified mentor. 

Under the hunting mentorship program, to qualify as a mentor, a person must be 18 years of age or older and be the parent or guardian of the person for whom he or she is serving as a mentor or be authorized by the parent or guardian to serve as the mentor. The bill provides that at all times when serving as a mentor, the mentor must be within arm’s reach of the person for whom he or she is serving as a mentor, must have a current valid hunting approval, and must have obtained a certificate of accomplishment or be exempt from the requirement to obtain a certificate of  accomplishment. The bill provides that a mentor may take only one person hunting at a time and specifies that a mentor and a person who is hunting with the mentor may jointly have only one firearm or crossbow while hunting.

Other provisions

Under current law, a person who is 12 years of age or older may possess or control a firearm and may hunt with a firearm or bow and arrow on that person’s land or on land owned by his or her family if no license is required and if the firing of firearms is permitted on that land. This bill allows such a person also to hunt with a crossbow on that land.  

The bill also creates a new exception to the general restrictions that apply to firearm possession by persons who are under a specified age. The bill provides that those age restrictions do not apply to a person who uses a firearm in target practice if the person is accompanied by his or her parent or guardian or by a person who is at least 18 years of age who is designated by the parent or guardian.


The public hearing takes place Wednesday, April 29, 2009 at 1:00 PM in room 328 Northwest at the state Capitol in Madison.

We need more Boy Scouts

Eagle Scouts


One of the most rewarding and gratifying duties I have as a state Senator is presenting special state plaques of recognition to young men achieving the honor of Eagle Scout. 

I thoroughly enjoy the Eagle Scout ceremonies I attend. They are a wonderful testament to the caliber of fine young people.

The Boy Scouts of America is in need of support. That is why I was so pleased to see
Rebecca Hagelin, the author of the new best seller, 30 Ways in 30 Days to Save Your Family, write a column praising this terrific organization. Hagelin writes, in part:

It's time someone stand up for the young men of this country. What the nation really needs are more Boy Scouts. And I mean that literally. Scouting doesn't just stop with words and pledges, it shows boys how to become men marked by these invaluable traits.”

I agree wholeheartedly with all Hagelin has to say.

NO swine flu cases in Wisconsin

News you can use


That is the word from Wisconsin Emergency Management (This website keeps updating).

Meanwhile, Stateline reports on preparations being made in other states

State Budget Watch: The PECFA raid

State budget


The Sheboygan Press opens an editorial with this question:

“Is there no fund safe from Gov. Jim Doyle's long arms?”

The answer is no.

The raids on the transportation fund are well-documented. How about PECFA?

PECFA stands for the Petroleum Environmental Cleanup Fund Awards. The Wisconsin Department of Commerce says, “The PECFA program was created in response to enactment of federal regulations requiring release prevention from underground storage tanks and cleanup of existing contamination from those tanks. PECFA is a reimbursement program returning a portion of incurred remedial cleanup costs to owners of eligible petroleum product systems including home heating oil systems. Program funding is generated from a portion of a $0.02/gallon petroleum inspection fee.”

You know where this is going. PECFA is a pot of money that Governor Doyle has his sights set on for more pilfering.

The MacIver Institute reports PECFA has become a “slush fund” and the governor wants to siphon $25 million for general state purposes.

The legislature’s Joint Finance Committee that is reviewing the state budget will debate and vote on this raid.



UPDATE from wispolitics.com

Letting prisoners go will cost, not save the state

Corrections, Legislation, State budget


Suggestions to save the state over $2 billion and ease prison overcrowding involve locking up fewer criminals and releasing many from custody early. The Council of State Governments Justice Center has made a series of recommendations to the state Legislature. They include alternatives that result in reduced incarceration. That is a recipe for even greater costs and harm to society.

According to the Associated Press, the Council of State Governments Justice Center reports Wisconsin prisons are about 20 percent over capacity and that our prison population is expected to grow 21 percent in a decade, costing the state $2.5 billion. The Council of State Governments Justice Center claims its recommendations will hold the prison population level steady and save $2.3 billion.

The recommendations include putting limits on the time offenders can be out of prison on extended supervision and allowing courts to impose lesser sentences if inmates complete programs aimed to reduce danger to the public. The recommendations could be drafted as separate bills for the Legislature to consider. Governor Doyle has also proposed in his 2009-11 state budget the early release of thousands of felons and the elimination of parole for so-called nonviolent offenders.

Wisconsin cannot afford this open door policy for criminals.

Using FBI data and uniform crime reports, the Disaster Center has compiled Wisconsin crime rates. The number of violent crimes dropped from 13, 998 during 1997 to 11,548 during 2004. However, the number increased to 13,367 during 2005, 15, 783 during 2006, and 16,296 during 2007, the last year data is available.

Murders, property crimes, forcible rapes, aggravated assaults, burglaries, and larceny-thefts have all increased. The number of these kinds of crimes per 100,000 Wisconsin residents has also increased.

Why is the prison population growing? The Capital Times also examined the Council of State Governments Justice Center report, writing that, “A majority of inmates are incarcerated because they re-offend or violate the terms of their release. In 2007, 55 percent of prison inmates had violated terms of their parole, probation or extended supervision or were re-offenders who had committed a new crime.”

And we want to release more of them earlier?

Certainly, inmates inside prison cost the state. Do not forget all the costs of criminals to society.

The National Center for Victims of Crime also keeps crime statistics. The Center reports that crime is estimated to create $105 billion in medical expenses, lost earnings, and costs for victim services.  Add in pain and suffering and a reduced quality of life, and the total estimated cost of crime comes to $450 billion annually.

Victims of violent crime and their families receive benefits and mental health counseling and there are huge medical expenses.

During the previous legislative session when I served on the state Senate’s Committee on Judiciary and Corrections, I witnessed first-hand the sentiment that Wisconsin should cut back on Corrections, open the cell doors and let more prisoners go. The same risky philosophy has carried over into the current legislative session.

I do not subscribe to the theory that we cannot afford corrections, especially with various categories of violent crime are increasing. Given our economic status, the situation could get worse. The truth is the state cannot afford not to put prisoners away.

State Budget Watch: Policy tucked in budget unfair to citizens

State budget


The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) recently discovered what it called non-fiscal policy items in Governor Doyle’s proposed 2009-11 state budget. A total of 80 such items was found.

All of those policy items should have been removed from budget negotiations and taken up as separate bills. However, the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee only removed 45. 

This concerns Todd Berry, president of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX). He writes in a column:

“Many important statutory changes will be folded into the state's two-year budget where they will never be referred to legislative standing committees, never scrutinized through the hearing process; and in some cases, never even discussed. The governor's 2009-11 budget bill now before the Legislature's 16-member Joint Committee on Finance contains scores of changes that have little to do with state finances.”

You can read the rest of Berry’s column here.

State Budget Watch update: Your cell phone

State budget


Last month I blogged that Governor Doyle was about to raid another state fund. This time, he wants millions of dollars in cell phone rebates to be transferred to local governments. 

The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee 
that is reviewing the governor’s proposed budget voted last week along party lines in support of the raid, 12 Democrats for, 4 Republicans opposed. Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee moved to return the balance of the 911 fund to wireless customers, and to replace funding for county and municipal aid with federal stimulus funding. The effort failed on party lines.

The Sheboygan Press editorialized against the raid, asking:

“Is there no fund safe from Gov. Jim Doyle's long arms?”

That is a great question.

The Wisconsin State Journal goes 1 for 3


The Wisconsin State Journal has editorialized in the past against Governor Doyle’s proposed tax on oil companies, and I have commended the newspaper for its stance.
However, in their latest piece on funding transportation, Wisconsin State Journal editorial writers have taken two mighty swings and missed.

1) Calling it a short-term solution, they are embracing a three-cent increase in the state’s already too-high gas tax.

2) The editorial writers also submit that the gas tax as a funding mechanism is becoming obsolete. Their suggestion:

“Whether it's high-tech, no-stop toll roads, a tax based on miles traveled, local sales taxes or something else, lawmakers should be looking for a better financing model.”

Sorry, those are all bad ideas. Why must every solution focus on tax increases?

Here is the State Journal editorial.

State Budget Watch: Shortfall in transportation fund

State budget


The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) has issued a report on the condition of the state’s transportation fund. The LFB says the balance at the end of the biennium is $7.6 million, $24.7 million less than was estimated by Governor Doyle at the time he introduced his 2009-11 state budget proposal.

Factors affecting the decrease in the fund are projected reductions in collections from the gas tax, oil company profits tax and vehicle registration fees, and lower transportation fund investment earnings.

Read the LFB report. 

Watch for Governor Doyle to use this new information to fuel his recent call for a three-cent increase in Wisconsin’s gas tax. 

I repeat. Wisconsin’s gas tax is already one of the highest in the country. The Tax Foundation in Washington D.C. reports Wisconsin's gasoline tax is variable and stands at 32.9 cents per gallon, the nation's 8th highest. 

We do not need an increase in the gas tax. Here is a thought. Maybe the governor should stop raiding the transportation fund and there would not be a need to discuss raising the gas tax.

Federal cigarette tax increase: The impact on Wisconsin

Taxes


On April 1, 2009, the federal cigarette tax increased from 39 cents to $1.01 per pack, resulting in an increase of $6.3 billion according to the Tax Foundation in Washington D.C.

Increased tax revenue will be used for the federal State Children's Health Insurance program. However, there will be a corresponding reduction in the amount of disposable income of residents across America. In Wisconsin, the increase in federal cigarette taxes will be $117,357,576.

Fewer cigarettes will be sold. Cigarette purchases will drop by about 10 percent. 

The federal cigarette tax increase also impacts state and local government revenues. Revenue lost by state and local governments in Wisconsin resulting from the 62-cent federal cigarette t ax increase for Fiscal Year 2010 (July 1, 2009 - June 30, 2010) will be $70,919,000.

G
overnor Doyle’s proposed 75-cent cigarette tax increase would only make matters worse. Under Doyle’s proposed state budget, the state cigarette tax would increase to $2.52 a pack, causing Wisconsin to jump from the 15th highest state tax to the third behind only New York ($2.75) and New Jersey ($2.58). Wisconsin’s total tax, combined with the federal tax increase that went into effect this month would be $3.53.

Read more from the Tax Foundation.

Rich states, poor states

Business, State budget, Taxes


Another economic report card, another horrible ranking for the state of Wisconsin.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has released its 2009 edition of “Rich states, poor states” that ranks all 50 states on their economic policies and performance, and also forecasts the states best equipped to rebound from the rough economy.

Wisconsin has the tenth worst economic performance ranking, dropping 11 spots from last year, and ranks #27 for its economic outlook (A property tax burden ranking of #42).

A press release from ALEC about the report says, “(It) shows how the federal bailout of the states may simply encourage out-of-control spending by states, which is up 124 percent over the last 10 years, without requiring them to make the tough decisions needed to bring about financial stability.”

Co-author of the report and highly acclaimed economist Dr. Arthur B. Laffer said, “States cannot tax their way into prosperity.”

One of the report’s conclusions:

As budget problems become more severe, states must utilize every cost-saving measure possible to avoid economically damaging tax hikes. Increasing taxes during the current downturn is a non-starter for states that wish to remain competitive. Instead, we hope states will use their current financial problems to put their fiscal houses in order and say no to profligate spending and irresponsible budget practices, which have caused many of the current difficulties.

As lawmakers return to session in 2009, many will be faced with a budget crisis. A handout from Washington, D.C., might seem to help in the short-term, but as many seem to overlook, dollars from Washington rarely come without costly strings attached. Furthermore, a federal bailout would do nothing to address the fundamental problem of a decade’s worth of state overspending. If anything good comes out of the budget problems in the states, maybe it will highlight the key to good budgeting: having the ability to say ‘no.’ Hopefully the next time we face an economic downturn, states will have policies in place to avoid another crisis of their own making.”

Here is the full report.

I signed the No Climate Tax Pledge

Legislation, Taxes


Global warming legislation is moving along in the Democrat-controlled Congress. There is great concern the legislation will be used to include the largest tax increase in American history, the cap-and-trade energy tax.

The Heritage Foundation says, “The $1.9 trillion generated over eight years from a cap-and-trade bill would still be larger than the $1.5 trillion from NASA, the New Deal, and Hurricane Katrina.”

President Obama conceded last year in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle that under his plan, energy prices would “skyrocket.”



Read more

Smoking ban update

Legislation


A proposed statewide smoking ban, Assembly Bill 252 (AB 252) will get a public hearing next Wednesday in the Assembly Committee on Health and Healthcare Reform.  The language of AB 252 is the same used by the governor in his proposed state budget.

A vote is being planned by the committee on May 8, 2009, and the bill could come to the Assembly floor on May 13, 2009.

The state Senate could act on the measure the same day.

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