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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.

Ballot measures run the gamut across America


In South Dakota, voters will decide on an abortion ban and term limits. Merit pay for teachers is on the ballot in Oregon. Maryland will decide whether to approve slot machines. There are marijuana questions before voters, where else, in California.

A host of referendum and initiative questions are on ballots all across the country this Election Day. Here is the rundown.

This would have been a good list for Wisconsin

News you can use, Taxes


Forbes.com has listed its top ten cities that are the most affordable to retire.

No Wisconsin city made the list. 

I am not surprised.

See how you pay corporate income taxes

News you can use, Taxes


The nonpartisan Tax Foundation in Washington D.C. has announced the winners of its CompeteUSA YouTube Contest. Contestants produced videos about America's high business tax rates and their impact on our country’s wages and ability to compete.

The Tax Foundations reports that data shows, “America has the second-highest corporate income tax rate in the industrialized world, and the American worker shoulders a disproportionate amount of the corporate tax. As a result of America standing still while nine key trading partners cut their corporate tax rates last year, our corporate tax rate is now 50% higher than the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) average.”

Third prize in the contest went to Lori Harfenist of Brooklyn, New York for her video, "Taxes, Schmaxes."

Read more

College Goal Sunday helps students get financial aid

News you can use


The 4th annual College Goal Sunday takes place all over Wisconsin on February 21st and 22nd, 2009.  College Goal Sunday offers help to high school seniors and their families seeking financial aid for college.

Over 1,400 students and parents attended the 2008 event. The 2009 College Goal Sunday will be held at 20 different sites with financial aid experts on hand to assist with Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) forms that determine the amount of aid a student is eligible to receive. Students that complete the FAFSA may receive state or federal grants, scholarships, campus jobs in the work study program, low interest loans or other forms of financial assistance.

I encourage constituents to attend these events to receive valuable information that can make the complex procedure of financial aid application much easier.

More information is available at the College Goal Sunday website. Here are the locations for College Goal Sunday. You may call a toll-free number, 1-866-578-GOAL (4625) for more information.

Help send movies to our soldiers

News you can use


I am very proud that OPERATION: Take a Soldier to the Movies has its national office in Senate District 28 in New Berlin. The charity builds troop morale by sending packages that provide a true Saturday night at the movies experience for our fine military men and women. This national grassroots program needs your help and has issued the following news release:

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  


TAKE A SOLDIER TO THE MOVIES NEEDS YOUR HELP TO REACH 2,000 SOLDIERS IN THE WAR ZONES 

New Berlin, WI (October 30, 2008) – OPERATION: Take a Soldier to the Movies, a not-for profit charity, whose national office is located in New Berlin, WI provides a “Saturday Night at the Movies” experience to our troops serving in the war zones. 

Right now we have more than 100 units with over 2,000 soldiers on our waiting list who have requested a movie package and we are short of candy to complete the movie packages and funds for postage to ship these requests. 

If you have any left over trick-or-treat candy, or if your children or grandchildren collected more than they can really eat, we would appreciate if you would consider donating the excess to OPERATION: Take a Soldier to the Movies. 

Each “Saturday Night at the Movies” package includes a new or used DVD, candy, pre-sweetened powdered drink mix packets, microwave popcorn and a letter from home. 

We accept donations of all of the items that make up the movie package.  At present we are in desperate need of Candy and Funds to complete and ship the packages. 

OPERATION: Take a Soldier to the Movies is a 501 (c) (3) charitable organization and a member of the Defense Department’s America Supports You program.  100% of the funds donated are used directly for this project. 

With the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays fast approaching, we are trying to fill and ship movie packages to all those who have requested them. 

Donations can be mailed to or dropped off at: 

OPERATION: Take a Soldier to the Movies
14775 W National Avenue
New Berlin, WI  53151
(262) 754-4300

   

It is so heartwarming to hear of school children getting involved to put smiles on the faces of our soldiers.

Click image to enlarge.

Read more

Have you voted yet?

News you can use


Polls are open until 8:00 tonight.

You can look up your voting registration and polling location along with voter registration information, voting history, current office holders, and a sample ballot at the State of Wisconsin Voter Public Access website.

Only one state has an expanding economy


It’s the one governed by Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin. According to Moody’s Economy.com, Alaska is the only state immune from falling into recession. The other 49 states are either in a recession (including Wisconsin) or are at risk.

Shortly after the state Legislature reconvenes in January, Governor Doyle will present his State of the State address, followed by his state budget proposal. Given our gloomy economy, it is imperative Wisconsin adopts a lean, fiscally responsible budget without tax increases that would hurt families desperately trying to get by.

Read more about the country’s battle with recession here.

Veterans Day activities

News you can use, Veterans issues


Programs and ceremonies are scheduled across Wisconsin. Here’s the list.
 

Show me the spending works

Taxes


When the state Legislature reconvenes in January, I plan to re-introduce legislation to create a website that would show all state expenditures. The user-friendly searchable website would be maintained by the Wisconsin Department of Administration (DOA).

Anyone could go to the website and see how the state is spending your money. Legislation that I introduced last session would require that the DOA must ensure that all state agency expenditures are available for inspection. The DOA would categorize expenditure information on the Web site by state agency and expenditure category. Within each category, DOA must show the amount and purpose of each expenditure exceeding $100 and the entity or person receiving your money.

All of the following information relating to state agency grants and contracts would be made available to the general public: a copy of the contract and grant award; the state agency making the grant or entering into the contract; the name and address of the person receiving the grant or entering into the contract; the purpose of the grant or contract; the amount of the grant or the amount the state agency must expend under the contract; and the name of the state fund the grant is paid or moneys are expended under the contract.

There would be frequent updates so the public is aware as quickly as possible about how their tax money is being spent. State agencies would be required to make the information available to the DOA not later than 24 hours after an expenditure is made or an agency makes a grant or enters into a contract.

Several states have already adopted this transparency philosophy called the Google-government trend, a movement that has tremendous benefits for taxpayers. One of the states is the “Show me” state, Missouri that last year created a popular database called the Missouri Accountability Portal (MAP). During May of this year, MAP exceeded six million hits.

Googling state government works. The National Taxpayers Union (NTU) reviewed Missouri’s database and found more than $2.4 million of dubious expenditures during the past eight years. According to the NTU, “The state of Missouri spent $15,482.57 at Ann's Bra Shop from 2000 to 2008 for ‘professional services’ and ‘clothing supplies.’ Over the same period, government employees spent more than $1.6 million at coffee shops, $387,210.14 at framing stores, $278,053.46 at florists and nurseries, and $70,849.02 at donut bakeries.”

Other expenditures discovered by the NTU included $936.75 spent at The Corsage Shop, $232.00 at Doris' Beauty Shop, $1,651.27 at The Jean Shop, $348.70 at the Budget Rose Shop, $6,964.55 at Susie's Bake Shoppe, and $3,803.00 at the Westside Barber Shop. During 2000, $12.00 was spent at Ann's Hair & Nail Shop.  Apparently, twelve dollars was the price at the time for a manicure.

If a state government is throwing money around for bras, hair appointments, manicures, flowers, frames, and donuts,
I am certain taxpayers would want to know that information. Clearly, having this information readily available would assist legislators making important budget decisions.

A quick and easy Internet clearinghouse would throw a laser beam on government spending, the increased focus having great potential for significant savings. As I researched this legislation, I was told that the Wisconsin data is available and technology is in place that could keep the cost of a transparency website relatively low. Yes, it is definitely time to Google Wisconsin government.

State $5 Billion in the Red

Earlier this week my friend and colleague Representative Jim Ott of Mequon issued this press release.

For More Information Contact:
Representative Jim Ott 1-888-534-0023

"State $5 Billion in the Red – Governor to go to Beverly Hills"

Read more

TABOR Survives in Colorado

Taxes


There was some good news from last week’s elections for fiscal conservatives. Voters in Colorado, the architect of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR), rejected another effort to weaken protection for taxpayers.
The Colorado ballot included Amendment 59, considered by TABOR supporters to have been the most serious attack against the concept.

TABOR was approved as an amendment to the state constitution in Colorado during 1992. Government spending was capped at the previous year’s total multiplied by the rate of inflation plus annual population growth. The beauty of TABOR is that voters need to approve any hikes in tax rates or in state or local debt. Revenues that go beyond the spending caps must be returned to taxpayers through tax reductions.

TABOR was a godsend to taxpayers. Between 1997 and 2002, the state of Colorado issued tax rebates totaling more than $3.2 billion. Colorado was the envy of tax relief proponents and saw its economy take off. TABOR’s opponents have stubbornly tried numerous times to circumvent the measure by supporting tax and spending increases. Referendum C was adopted during 2005 that suspended revenue limits in Colorado for five years. Revenues that have exceeded the TABOR limits are now funding government in Colorado, not tax relief. Revenue limits return in 2010. The latest attempt to water down TABOR was Amendment 59 on the Colorado ballot November 4. 

Amendment 59 would have eliminated rebates that taxpayers receive when Colorado collected more money than it is allowed, and spent the money on preschool through 12th (grade (P-12) public education. The amendment also would have eliminated a required inflationary increase for P-12 education spending and would have set aside money in a new savings account for P-12 education.

Opponents of Amendment 59 called it a permanent tax increase, arguing that a requirement to donate a tax rebate to government programs is a net tax increase.

Amendment 59, its opponents claimed, would have freed up general funds currently spent on education, allowing elected officials to spend more taxpayer money on their pet projects. They also emphasized that the amendment would gut the goal of TABOR: Shrinking the role of government in the state’s economy. The fear was that Colorado would return to the days of double-digit spending increases, making balancing the state budget more difficult. That sounds familiar, doesn’t it, Wisconsin?

Amendment 59 was rejected by 55% of Colorado voters and the consensus is that once the suspension on revenue limits is lifted during 2010, Colorado will once again enjoy economic growth.

Under the current political landscape, Wisconsin’s prospects for approving TABOR are next to impossible. I support TABOR, and voted for tough spending limits when the Legislature took up the measure during 2006.

Colorado’s defeat of Amendment 59 signals a return of TABOR to the state that successfully pioneered the idea. TABOR’s reputation and credibility will rebound, and hopefully serve as the stimulus for another proposal here in Wisconsin.

Governor Doyle + Democrat controlled State Senate + Democrat controlled Assembly – QEO = big property tax increases

Taxes


Now that Democrats control the governor’s mansion and both houses of the state Legislature, it is a pretty safe bet that there will be a serious effort to repeal the Qualified Economic Offer (QEO) when the Legislature reconvenes in January 2009. In the past, Governor Doyle has said the QEO (opposed by the state teacher’s union that strongly backs Governor Doyle) “isn’t working.” The governor needs a history lesson.

The QEO was instituted by the Legislature in 1993 after angry taxpayers statewide demanded action be taken to stop the tidal wave of huge property tax increases. Since its inception, the QEO has helped keep property taxes from being even higher than they already are.

Under the QEO, the compensation package for teachers including salaries and benefits is to be limited to a 3.8 percent increase. Prior to the implementation of the QEO, settlement packages with teachers were much larger, forcing a tremendous burden on taxpayers.

According to data from the Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB) that used figures from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, the average total teacher salary and benefit package increase in the years before the QEO was 8 percent during 1984-85, 8.4 percent during 1985-86, 7.7 percent during 1986-87, 7.4 percent during 1987-88, 7.1 percent during 1988-89, 7.3 percent during 1989-90, 7.4 percent during 1990-91 and 6.9 percent during both 1991-92 and 1992-93.

Enough was enough. Taxpayers protested. The Legislature heard and listened, and the QEO was adopted.

In reality, most school districts do not stay within the QEO, agreeing to settlements that surpass the 3.8 percent limit. The WASB reports that the average total package of salaries and benefits was 4.29 percent during 2006-07, 4.25 percent during 2005-06, and 4.31 percent during 2004-05. The percentages are higher than the rate of inflation, and more than likely are greater than increases provided in the private sector.

Watch for state Democrats from the top on down to prioritize the repeal of the QEO at a time when property taxpayers are already overburdened. The nonpartisan Tax Foundation in Washington D.C. writes, “Wisconsin Property Taxes: Among the Nation's Highest: Wisconsin is one of the 37 states that collect property taxes at both the state and local levels. As in most states, local governments collect far more. Wisconsin's localities collected $7,324,843,000 in property taxes in fiscal year 2004, which is the latest year the Census Bureau published state-by-state property tax collections. At the state level, Wisconsin collected $104,158,000 in property taxes during FY 2004, making its combined state/local property taxes $7,429,001,000. That brings its per capita collection to $1,350, which ranks 11th highest nationally.”  Here is the full report

The governor and Democrats in the Legislature will be bound and determined to increase your taxes even higher, and that is exactly what will happen with elimination of the QEO.

The QEO must stay intact. Without the QEO, spending and taxes will rise substantially, more people will leave their homes, more people will leave the state, and more jobs will be lost. We cannot afford to lose the QEO.

Can You Name All Our State Symbols?

News you can use

 

Wisconsin has 22 state symbols, the most recent addition to the list being the official state tartan. 

Read more

Welcome home, Mark Gundrum!

 
WTMJ-TV

I am thrillled that my friend and Assemblyman, state Representative Mark Gundrum has arrived tonight at Mitchell International on a Midwest Airlines flight, having completed his tour of duty in Iraq and will now be able to spend the holidays with his wonderful family. Welcome home, Mark, and God bless you for your service to America!

Here are my previous blogs on Mark's deployment to Iraq:

January 2, 2008

March 28, 2008

July 2, 2008

All-important deer hunt begins Saturday

News you can use


One of Wisconsin’s great traditions, the annual deer hunt season that opens this Saturday is critical this year because a huge reduction in the deer herd is needed. Wisconsin has too many deer, but thinning the herd will be easier said than done.

Sadly, the number of hunters is on the decline. And the deer hunt starts later this year meaning the deer have finished mating and are less active, a prospect hunters would rather not think about. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has also announced there are herd control rules that hunters don’t like.

Here are more details from the Associated Press.

The economic impact of this yearly rite of passage is an incredible $1.5 billion according to the DNR.  The state of Wisconsin owes every hunter a huge thank you!

And so it begins

State budget, Taxes


Reports indicate the state is headed for a disastrous $5 billion state budget deficit. The worst way to get out of a hole is to keep digging, i.e., increasing taxes and fees. And yet, it seems Wisconsin will continue its fiscally irresponsible practice of increasing taxes and fees at a time when they are least affordable.

Case in point: The Wisconsin Division of Emergency Management wants to increase the fees for businesses that are required to file emergency planning notifications or that store hazardous chemicals by a whopping 35 percent. Wisconsin hasn’t increased the fees since they were first implemented in 1990 and now is not a good time to start.

More than 7,000 facilities in Wisconsin would be affected by the fee increases. Currently, the emergency planning notification fee is $800 per facility and would increase to $1,080 under the proposed rule. The inventory form fee would increase across all levels of reporting requirements, ranging from $205 to $1540. The emergency planning notification fee is a one-time fee. The inventory form fee is an annual fee.

The additional fees are expected to increase revenues by $471,000; however, there is a larger issue to consider. If this is any indication how the state, in general, is going to address its fiscal crisis, as compared to other states that are cutting rather than increasing taxing and spending, Wisconsin’s economic problems will only become more severe.

The New Economy: Wisconsin needs to catch up

Business, Taxes


Whenever a new economic report surfaces about Wisconsin, the news usually isn’t very good, whether it be about taxes, our business climate, per-capita income, or Tax Freedom Day. I have blogged extensively about these reports and the latest also shows some critical shortcomings.

The “2008 State New Economy Index” has been released  by the nonpartisan groups, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

According to stateline.org,  The groups used 29 indicators to rank each state on how well its economy is structured to compete regionally, as well as globally. States at the top of the list tend to have a high concentration of workers in ‘knowledge jobs’ that require at least a two-year college degree, are at the forefront of the information technology and Internet revolutions and have institutions and residents that embrace the digital economy.”

When it comes to the New Economy, Wisconsin ranks number 33 among the states. The report defines the New Economy as, “
a global, entrepreneurial, and
knowledge-based economy in which the keys to success lie in the extent to which knowledge, technology, and innovation are embedded in products and services.”

More specifically, the New Ecomony is:

Knowledge-dependent.  Knowledge workers have become the largest
occupational category.

Global. More goods and services are being traded and exported.

Entrepreneurial. Most, if not all of the job growth in America is derived from companies that are less than five years old.

Rooted in information technologies. IT’s are every where, the most important technology engineering our economy, a key component in almost every sector.

Driven by innovation. Competition is heavily based on the ability to create and adopt new products and business models. As the report states, “Innovative capacity (derived through universities, Research & Development investments, scientists and engineers, and entrepreneurial drive) is increasingly what drives competitive success in the New Economy.”

The Midwest has failed to catch on to the New Economy with the exception of some our neighbors: Illinois (rank number 16), Michigan (rank number 17), and Minnesota (rank number 14).

Why is the
2008 State New Economy Index” important?  The report says, “How closely do high scores correlate with economic growth? States that score higher appear to create jobs at a slightly faster rate than lower-ranking states. Higher New Economy scores were positively correlated with higher growth in state per-capita incomes between 2002 and 2006….states that embrace the New Economy can expect to sustain greater per-capita income growth for the foreseeable future.”

Solutions?  We must keep our best and brightest here in Wisconsin 
and we must dramatically improve our business climate. 

Here is the complete “2008 State New Economy Index.”

Hunters will be asked for deer heads

News you can use

State wildlife biologists will be in 17 northern counties collecting deer heads during this year’s deer hunt. Officials are hoping to collect as many as 500 to test Wisconsin deer for chronic wasting disease.

Here’s how the program will work. Biologists will ask successful hunters for a tissue sample or possibly the entire deer head to be tested. The DNR is specifically looking for samples from Polk, Barron, Washburn, Douglas, Bayfield, Ashland, Iron, Rusk, Taylor, Sawyer, Price, Lincoln, Langlade, Oneida, Vilas, Forest, and Florence counties.

Here is more information from the Department of Natural Resources.

UPDATE: Help send movies to our soldiers

News you can use


Two weeks ago, I blogged about a great program run out of New Berlin that helps send movie kits to our soldiers. OPERATION Take a Soldier to the Movies needs your help. 

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran a nice feature article about the program in Sunday’s edition. You can read the article here.

BREAKING NEWS: State budget in massive deficit


Governor Doyle will announce this afternoon that the state budget deficit is worse than expected. The deficit is $5.4 billion. More details later.

UPDATE from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Muskego Water Bugs savor success in China


I congratulate the Muskego Water Bugs for their successful trip to China this fall where the multi-talented group participated in the 2008 Sino-American Water Ski Competition. The Water Bugs represented the United States against two of the very best professional Chinese water ski show teams.

The Muskego Water Bugs left for China on September 26 and returned on October 6. The Muskego water skiers believed the most important element of their trip was the chance to build U.S./China relations through the avenue of entertainment.

Family oriented, the Muskego Water Bugs feature parents and children performing on the shores of beautiful Little Muskego Lake at Idle Isle. This was definitely their most successful season, as the group celebrated its 50th anniversary, culminating in their trip to China.

The Water Bugs performed four times in two days. At the first site of competition, Dongguan, the group came just a few points shy of victory, but captured the best male skier, Terry Roslawski, and the most original act awards. The second site of the competition took place outside Shanghai in a city called Wuxi, and this time the Water Bugs won the team award along with the best male skier, Jeremy Armstrong.

You can read more about the Muskego Water Bugs and their trip to China and see video here. 

Again, congratulations to the Muskego Water Bugs for their successful journey to China. Thank you for sharing your gifted talents with the world and for bringing immense pride and joy to our great state! 

Illegal alien gang members arrested in DOJ operation


Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has issued the following news release outlining details of a special DOJ operation that culminated in the arrest of 11 illegal alien gang members:

J.B. VAN HOLLEN
ATTOREY GENERAL
                

NEWS RELEASE 

For Immediate Release 
November 20, 2008
For More Information Contact:
Bill Cosh 608/266-1221

11 ILLEGAL ALIEN GANG MEMBERS ARRESTED IN DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE & ICE-LED OPERATION TARGETING GANG MEMBERS KENOSHA

Attorneyney General J.B. Van Hollen announced today the successful arrest of eleven illegal alien gang members from Mexico in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

These arrests were made Wednesday, November 19, 2008 as part of the ongoing national U.S. Immigration and Customs (ICE) initiative called “Operation Community Shield,” in which ICE partners with other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to address the significant public safety threat posed by transnational street gangs.

Under Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen’s leadership, the Wisconsin Department of Justice has become an active partner and participant in these cooperative enforcement operations concentrating on illegal alien gang members.

“The identification and arrest of illegal aliens who organize and are members of criminal street gangs must be a top priority of all law enforcement. The success of this operation speaks for itself,” said Van Hollen. “Street gangs wreck havoc on communities. We are proud to partner with ICE and local law enforcement to make Wisconsin streets safer.”

The multi-agency operation involving the Wisconsin Department of Justice, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Office, the Kenosha Police Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) targeted members and associates of the Surenos street gang.

One of those arrested is 40-year-old Francisco Cortes-Ruiz, a self-admitted member of the Surenos-13 gang. While serving time in California’s maximum security Pelican Bay State Prison for drug trafficking in 1991, Cortes-Ruiz was convicted of assaulting another prisoner with a weapon and sentenced to an additional three years in prison. He was deported to Mexico in 1996 as an aggravated felon upon his release from prison, and later illegally re-entered the United States. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has accepted his case for re-entering the U.S. after being deported as an aggravated felon, a felony punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison.

“Illegal immigration isn’t just a problem at the borders,” said Van Hollen. “It is a public safety problem. When illegal immigrants engage in criminal activity in Wisconsin it is no longer just a federal issue, it becomes a state problem.”

Two of the other arrests, Jose Garcia-Ayala, 29, and Francisco Cordero-Rodriguez, 26, were turned over to the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Office to face outstanding criminal charges. ICE placed detainers on them to ensure they will be returned to ICE for deportation after they complete their criminal proceedings.

The remaining eight illegal alien gang members arrested face administrative immigration charges, and are currently in ICE custody pending their deportation.
 

Save our USO

Veterans issues


Think of the USO and images of the legendary Bob Hope entertaining our troops overseas during the holidays quickly come to mind.

Read more

UPDATE: This could be a very tough winter

News you can use


A few weeks ago I blogged about the impact of rising road salt prices on Wisconsin.

A Wisconsin transportation official says salt will be used as a last resort this winter. Wisconsin is one of the states hit hardest by the high cost of salt. Here’s an update from stateline.org. 

Eat a Butterburger, help a soldier today


Culver’s New Berlin in association with Soldier to Movies, Inc is holding a special fundraiser today, November 24 for Operation: Take a Soldier to the Movies. 

From 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. today, 10 percent of sales at the New Berlin Culver’s with a special voucher will go towards OPERATION: Take a Soldier to the Movies. Vouchers have been available at various New Berlin businesses. If you have a voucher, please consider redeeming it at the Culver’s today at 14855 W. National Avenue in New Berlin.

I encourage patronizing a great Wisconsin-based business today for a great cause.

Congratulations St. James in Mukwonago!


I congratulate Marsha Grutzmacher and her students at St. James School in Mukwonago for winning the Midwest Regional Land category in the Lexus Eco Challenge.  This marks the first time a Wisconsin school has won in any division.

Mrs. Grutzmacher and her students entered the second annual Lexus Eco Challenge, a national contest that encourages middle and high school students to develop and implement environmental programs that have a positive impact on their communities. The Lexus Eco Challenge was established to teach young people about the environment and to inspire them to create a better world.

St. James in Mukwonago has been invited to participate in the Final Challenge and a chance to win a grand prize of $50,000 in grants and scholarships. Should the school accept the Final Challenge, I wish St. James the best of luck in the competition during February and March of 2009.

Again, congratulations to Marsha Grutzmacher and all of her St. James students on winning the Midwest Regional Land Category in the Lexus Eco Challenge.  I am very proud to have this award winning group in my Senate district.

The Democrats’ response to a record state budget deficit: raise taxes

State budget


Governor Doyle has announced the state budget deficit is the highest in Wisconsin history: $5.4 billion. Now the question is how the governor and the Democrat-controlled Legislature will propose the state get out of this fiscal mess. Their early response is not very promising.

Democrats, as reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, are stunned by the enormity of the deficit. If they had paid attention during the past several years when caution was urged about taxing and spending beyond our means, they wouldn’t be suffering sticker shock. Tax and spenders ignored the warnings and kept using the state’s credit card over and over again. The bill is now due and it’s a whopper.

Some legislative Democrats have been quoted saying the state needs to find new ways to increase revenues. That translated, of course, means tax hikes.

Governor Doyle had instructed his department heads before the latest deficit news to make modest cuts in their agencies. They reacted that they couldn’t come up with the cuts. Now the governor has made another request, asking for even deeper cuts. What will their response be this time if their earlier reaction was that certain cuts were impossible?

The governor has suggested he may resurrect two measures he tried unsuccessfully to include in the last state budget: a hospital tax and a tax on oil companies. The state Assembly, at that time controlled by Republicans, was able to block the inclusion of the taxes in the budget. Democrats control both houses of the Legislature.

A hospital tax will merely drive up health care costs. The tax will ultimately be passed on to patients. In essence, it is a tax on the sick that will make health care more expensive and less accessible in Wisconsin.

The last state budget proposed by Governor Doyle included what he called an “assessment on oil companies.” That is just another way of calling the plan what it really is: It’s a tax, but a tax that won’t be paid by oil companies. Those paying the freight will be motorists who will see the tax passed onto the price paid at the pump.

The non-partisan Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI) reported during 2007 that the Governor’s tax would have amounted to a five-cent increase in our state’s gas tax, already one of the highest gas taxes in the country, and it would have been paid directly by consumers. In its report entitled, The Truth Behind Wisconsin's Oil Company Tax: Why You'll Pay More at the Pump, the WPRI wrote:

“The oil company gross receipts tax and its no-pass-through provision as proposed by Governor Doyle is the latest in a series of questionable fiscal maneuvers. But no one should be fooled; the proposal is a gas tax increase of five cents per gallon. The legislative consideration of the Governor's transportation budget must be based on this premise. Any thought of acquiescing to the Governor's proposed tax must be considered an endorsement of a five-cent per gallon increase in the tax on gasoline.”

The WPRI correctly came to the conclusion that oil companies will do less business in Wisconsin and do more business in states that don’t have the tax Wisconsin would have. The result could be a damaging reduction in oil supplies to Wisconsin leading to fuel shortages, not to mention higher prices.

Here's the complete WPRI study.   

The Governor’s attempts to bar oil companies from passing on the increased cost to consumers by creating criminal penalties including jail time for oil company executives if their company passed the tax on would surely be fought in court. There’s not a guarantee the Governor’s punitive efforts against oil companies would meet Constitutional muster. The non-partisan Wisconsin Legislative Council has warned that a proposed tax on oil companies is probably unconstitutional. 

The public understands how problematic such a proposal would be and has rejected the idea. 

I have said it many times in the past and will continue to say it. The current budget crisis calls for dramatic decisions that will be difficult, but necessary. Wisconsin must refrain from raising taxes to try to correct this major problem. Raising taxes will only make a drastic situation even worse.  

 

Jim Doyle’s $5.4 billion forecast or, is there more to the story?

State budget


Last week, Governor Doyle made a grim announcement that resulted in this headline on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s website:

State deficit forecast rises to $5.4 billion by mid-2011

Stop the presses!

Todd Berry, president of the nonpartisan, non-profit Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance believes the governor’s math is off, way off.

On one of its blogs, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
 
reports, “(Berry) says Gov. Jim Doyle's new estimate of a $5.4-bllion budget deficit between now and mid-2011 is ‘unreal’ and based on ‘double counting.’ In an interview, Berry said the $5.4-billion number assumes that state agencies will get an additional $2.8 billion in spending they requested for the next two years -- a ‘fictitious’ assumption.

And, Berry said, Doyle's scenario also assumes that the so-called ‘structural balance’ -- the long-term imbalance between spending commitments and tax collections - remains at $800 million per year for each of the next two years. That's about $1.6 billion of Doyle's $5.4-billion deficit. Berry said.”

Berry then spoke to the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce, as reported by the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram 
that quoted Berry saying, "A little bit of fear is not necessarily a bad thing if you're trying to run the show. (The $5.4 billion figure) presumes spending requests will be OK'd next year. And it's difficult to predict revenue." The newspaper also reported, “Berry said a more accurate number would be ‘in the neighborhood’ of $2 billion, figuring there will be some spending cuts and tax increases.”

So what is the governor up to? I have to wonder if the governor isn’t purposely sounding like Chicken Little, painting the dire picture of the worst budget crisis in Wisconsin history, whipping state residents into a collective depression of epic proportions.

Why the bearer of such bad news? Think about it. The governor overstates the budget debacle by a country mile, allowing him to offer dramatic, headline-grabbing spending cuts as solutions. If a Republican posed such measures, the press would label them, “draconian.” Editorial boards will rave, though, about Doyle, calling the governor and his moves, “courageous.” Undoubtedly, the governor and legislative Democrats will also salivate at the opportunity to seek new revenues, i.e., raise taxes.

At the end of the day, when the dust clears and the true budget deficit is actually much smaller, the governor and Democrat lawmakers will claim victory and come off as fiscal conservative heroes. For Governor Doyle, creating the illusion that he’s fiscally conservative is critical because he’s up for possible re-election in two years. If the Democrat-controlled Legislature hammers home a heavily liberal agenda as expected, the governor needs something to separate himself and run on in 2010. Riding on a white horse as a fiscal conservative could be his ticket.

I trust Todd Berry and the outstanding work done by the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance. Undoubtedly, the state’s fiscal matters are in need of repair, but it seems not to the extent the governor, who has drawn up a script that crowns him the hero who saves the day, would have us believe.

This Thanksgiving reflect upon the holiday's true meaning


Amidst the various newspaper sale ads, television offerings, and never-ending assortment of trimmings on the table, please remember the true, and yes, religious significance of Thanksgiving.  As we reflect on our own blessings after a year about war, terrorism, natural disasters, and negative campaigning, those blessings certainly seem very clear. Pause and appreciate what we have: family, friends, individual liberties and freedom, and for those truly fortunate, rewarding employment and fine health. The most joyous season we are about to enter should be a reminder to all not to take any of what we enjoy each and every day for granted.

While we take into account what we truly are thankful for, we should take time to also hope that those not as blessed may find whatever it takes to make their lives better and happier.  Far too many in our country and abroad have suffered great hardships this past year.  They should not be forgotten.  They need to be remembered in our thoughts and prayers.

Watch TV. Enjoy all the sports. Eat and eat some more. But carve out some time to gather as a family, ponder your many blessings, and give thanks, for that is the true meaning of this wonderful holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving!

A new welfare migration to Wisconsin

Taxes


Wisconsin
has a moving problem. Too many are voting with their feet.

Our state’s high level of taxation is forcing too many residents to pack up and leave. 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.

Arthur Laffer, president of Laffer Associates and Stephen Moore, senior economics writer for The Wall Street Journal editorial board confirmed that high taxing and spending have had a negative impact on Wisconsin’s ability to compete and cause many people to relocate elsewhere.

Laffer and Moore write in the Wall Street Journal, “Five of the states near the bottom of our competitiveness ratings -- Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey and Wisconsin -- have enacted major tax increases.” Laffer and Moore say the record movement of citizens across America has little to do with the weather. They say the states with the most dynamic and desirable economies are generally the states with the lowest tax, spending and regulatory burdens. These states win the battle for the prized commodity of human capital. The big losers are high taxing and spending states in the Midwest and Northeast.

New evidence suggests the d
isturbing pattern continues.

The Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University released a study during September 2008 examining migration trends in New Jersey. The authors compared New Jersey to states that tend to attract low
???income individuals, while seeing a relative outflow (or much smaller inflow) of wealthy individuals. The study said Wisconsin is a good example, being one of the five states in the country with the most negative correlation between income and net migration. The list includes Wisconsin, Arizona, Delaware, North Dakota and Arkansas.

The study says the following about Wisconsin:

“At low income levels, there is strong net in-migration into Wisconsin; however, at higher income levels, in
???migration is small or negative. Hence, one can say that Wisconsin is more attractive to low???income individuals than high???income earners.”

Authors concluded that in New Jersey, “poor people leave, but rich people do not.” In Wisconsin, “on average, poor people move in, but rich people do not.”

Why is Wisconsin so enticing to so many poor?  A University of Wisconsin-Madison economics professor provided an answer in his presentation to a Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis conference on the Midwest economy during June 2008. John Kennan displayed graphs showing Wisconsin dishes out the highest welfare benefits in the Midwest. You thought we ended welfare as we know it? Time limits have been placed on benefits and there are more stringent work provisions. But the size of benefits remains generous.

Factor in other benefits like child care, BadgerCare, the earned income tax credit, and low income housing, and the incentives for low-income residents to flock to Wisconsin are quite evident. The term, “welfare magnet” may have disappeared for some time in Wisconsin, but this new data seems to suggest there could be an entirely new welfare migration taking place.

This migration is clearly putting a strain on our finances. Just how much it is costing in taxes is unclear but my guess is that it is substantial and needs further study.

Meanwhile, our wealthiest leave Wisconsin, taking with them their tax revenues, spending, savings, investments, and charitable contributions. To
stop people from voting with their feet in Wisconsin, we must stop the hemorrhaging of taxing and spending.

A new welfare migration to Wisconsin

Taxes


Wisconsin
has a moving problem. Too many are voting with their feet.

Our state’s high level of taxation is forcing too many residents to pack up and leave. 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.

Arthur Laffer, president of Laffer Associates and Stephen Moore, senior economics writer for The Wall Street Journal editorial board confirmed that high taxing and spending have had a negative impact on Wisconsin’s ability to compete and cause many people to relocate elsewhere.

Laffer and Moore write in the Wall Street Journal, “Five of the states near the bottom of our competitiveness ratings -- Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey and Wisconsin -- have enacted major tax increases.” Laffer and Moore say the record movement of citizens across America has little to do with the weather. They say the states with the most dynamic and desirable economies are generally the states with the lowest tax, spending and regulatory burdens. These states win the battle for the prized commodity of human capital. The big losers are high taxing and spending states in the Midwest and Northeast.

New evidence suggests the d
isturbing pattern continues.

The Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University released a study during September 2008 examining migration trends in New Jersey. The authors compared New Jersey to states that tend to attract low
income individuals, while seeing a relative outflow (or much smaller inflow) of wealthy individuals. The study said Wisconsin is a good example, being one of the five states in the country with the most negative correlation between income and net migration. The list includes Wisconsin, Arizona, Delaware, North Dakota and Arkansas.

The study says the following about Wisconsin:

“At low income levels, there is strong net in-migration into Wisconsin; however, at higher income levels, in
migration is small or negative. Hence, one can say that Wisconsin is more attractive to lowincome individuals than highincome earners.”

Authors concluded that in New Jersey, “poor people leave, but rich people do not.” In Wisconsin, “on average, poor people move in, but rich people do not.”

Why is Wisconsin so enticing to so many poor? University of Wisconsin-Madison economics professor provided an answer in his presentation to a Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis conference on the Midwest economy during June 2008. Kennan displayed graphs showing Wisconsin dishes out the highest welfare benefits in the Midwest. You thought we ended welfare as we know it? Time limits have been placed on benefits and there are more stringent work provisions. But the size of benefits remains generous.

Factor in other benefits like child care, BadgerCare, the earned income tax credit, and low income housing, and the incentives for low-income residents to flock to Wisconsin are quite evident. The term, “welfare magnet” may have disappeared for some time in Wisconsin, but this new data seems to suggest there could be an entirely new welfare migration taking place.

This migration is clearly putting a strain on our finances. Just how much it is costing in taxes is unclear but my guess is that it is substantial and needs further study.

Meanwhile, our wealthiest leave Wisconsin, taking with them their tax revenues, spending, savings, investments, and charitable contributions. To
stop people from voting with their feet in Wisconsin, we must stop the hemorrhaging of taxing and spending.

The deadline to sign up for the Wisconsin No Call List is Sunday

News you can use


If you wait until after Sunday, your number won't be on the list until April 2008.

There are two ways to sign up for the Wisconsin No Call List. You can sign up over the phone by calling 1-866-9NOCALL (1-866-966-2255), toll-free in Wisconsin. You can sign up at the Wisconsin No Call List website here.

Only one adult in each household needs to register. There is not a charge to register for the Wisconsin No Call List.

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