Capitol Week-in-Review – December 22, 2017

DWD Publishes New Worker Classification Educational Video

State law requires Wisconsin employers to classify each worker as either an “employee” or “independent contractor.” Worker classification determines whether or not the employer has legal obligations under the law for unemployment insurance, worker’s compensation, wage payments, work hours, record keeping and civil rights protections.

The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) has a website designed to provide employers with a clear and understandable process to assist them in determining if their workers are employees or independent contractors.

We encourage members to visit this site and watch the new educational video published by DWD on the proper classification of workers.

Assembly Lawmakers Hold Informational Hearing on DOT Budget Plan

Earlier this month, the State Assembly Transportation Committee held a daylong informational hearing on the two-year budget plan put forward by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT). This plan complies with the directives given to the agency by Governor Walker.

The morning session began with a one-hour presentation from DOT Secretary Mark Gottlieb followed by nearly two hours of back-and-forth questioning from committee members. During the afternoon session, organizations representing counties, cities, towns, manufacturers, farmers, tourist attractions, railroad companies and port operators provided their input on the DOT proposal.

It was an extraordinary hearing and there was plenty of insightful commentary. For us, the key points were:

  • Increasing inflationary costs alone will be four times higher than the growth in annual Transportation Fund revenues over the next five years;
  • Without any new funding, transportation-related debt service will continue to worsen and exceed 22% of state transportation fund revenues by 2019. To put this figure into context, the federal debt is approaching $20 trillion. Interest expenses on this debt is 7.7% of revenues;
  • Under the DOT Budget Plan, it will take as long as 70 years to rebuild the Southeastern Wisconsin highway system. This network of roads which carries the majority of all Wisconsin inbound and outbound commercial freight was originally constructed more than 50 years ago. DOT has spent $3.4 billion to reconstruct segments of this system, but another $4.4 billion is needed to complete the modernization; and
  • By 2018, 21% of Wisconsin highways will be in poor condition and the percentage of state highways in poor condition doubles by 2027 under the DOT plan. Bad roads are less safe and more congested. They are also more costly to fix.

The Republican-led Assembly intends to use the information and input provided at this hearing to develop an alternative transportation financing plan. We are supportive of their efforts.

Without major reform, the condition of state highways and rural roads will continue to deteriorate, debt will increase dramatically and the state will fall further behind in the necessary maintenance – costing everyone more money in the long run.

Governor Seeks More Cooperative Relationship with the Federal Government

On Tuesday, Governor Walker sent a letter to President-elect Trump asking for a greater role for individual states in federal government decision-making, block grant funding to states for shared responsibility programs and regulatory flexibility. More specifically, the Governor requested:

  • Federal government agencies to inform states of any work it is conducting within a state boundary; confer with the states before starting master planning, policy, regulatory changes or other actions; defer to state permit decisions for delegated programs; and provide timely review and feedback of any state implementation of a delegated program;
  • Federal block grant funding to the states for Medicaid, education and transportation; and
  • Federal government approval or favorable federal action to allow the State of Wisconsin to:

– Implement drug screening, testing, and treatment of food stamp recipients who are participating in Employment and Training Programs;

– Require childless adults who are receiving Medicaid benefits to pay higher premiums if they purposefully increase their health risks;

– Have a broader role in the resettlement process for refugees from countries with terrorist ties; and

– Manage the state’s gray wolf population.

We believe these are reasonable requests.