News of the Day

Governor Walker says $50M Economic Development Fund Could Help Keep Young Adults in Rural Communities

Governor Walker said he thinks a proposed $50 million annual investment in rural economic development programs will help keep young adults in Wisconsin’s rural communities.

Walker touted the proposal at the Governor’s Conference on Economic Development in downtown Madison. It’s part of a broad agenda Walker pitched to lawmakers during his State of the State address last week.

“One of the biggest things I hear from people across the state is, ‘I want to find a way for my kid or my grandkid to stay here,'” Walker told reporters after his speech at the conference. “To do that, most of them need to have a career opportunity.”

Under Walker’s plan, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation would distribute funding to eligible projects in counties with no more than 155 people per square mile — a measure Walker said applies to 56 of the state’s 72 counties.

In many rural communities, adding as many as 25 jobs can have a significant impact, Walker said.

Walker said he has been hearing “long before Foxconn” about the need to promote growth and development in rural areas.

He said the plan is designed to assist with projects large and small alike. “It’s not the cure-all for everyone, but it certainly would help us draw more attraction to those areas,” Walker said.

Governor Walker Open to Gas Tax Hike to Land Federal Road Funding

Gov. Scott Walker said Thursday he is open to raising the state’s gas tax, if offset by other tax cuts, to pay the state’s share of a federal proposal to spur $1.5 trillion in public and private infrastructure spending.

Responding to President Donald Trump’s call during his State of the Union address for more federal funding for roads, Walker said he hopes to work with U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, to encourage Congress to pass “a sizable package,” but maintain the typical match of 80 percent federal and 20 percent state funds.

The White House has said only $200 billion of the $1.5 trillion package would come from the federal government paid for with cuts in other areas. The rest of the money would come from state, local and private sources.

“We’re willing to invest to obtain those dollars to grow and build our infrastructure here,” Walker said. “I’m willing to look at ways to add to our revenue in the transportation budget as long as we have a net neutral or really a net reduction for the overall burden to the taxpayers in this state. If we could cut taxes, income taxes or other taxes, we could look at revenues in the future, particularly if it helped us leverage federal dollars.”

Walker made the comments to reporters after a speech at the Wisconsin Economic Development Association Governor’s Conference in Madison, where he urged economic development officials to lobby legislators to adopt his proposal for a $50 million a year rural economic development fund.

25,000 Gain Employment through Wisconsin FSET Program

According to data issued by the Department of Health Services, more than 25,000 FoodShare members who participated in the FoodShare Employment and Training (FSET) program have secured employment, as of December 2017.

As part of Governor Scott Walker’s Wisconsin Works for Everyone reform, the FSET program helps Wisconsin citizens move from government dependence to true independence through the dignity that comes from work.

Under this program, able-bodied adults in the FoodShare program who do not have children in the home must meet a work requirement. FoodShare members can meet the work requirement by doing any of the following for at least 80 hours per month: working, participating in the FSET program or another eligible worker training program, or a combination of both working and participating in a work program.

Data shows that:

  • Since FSET implemented statewide on April 1, 2015, there have been 25,071 FSET participants who have gained employment.
  • On average, FSET participants worked an average of 35 hours per week and earned $12.68 per hour – well above the state minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

In his 2018 State of the State address, Governor Walker proposed expanding the work requirement statewide for able-bodied adults in the FoodShare program, “For those who are able, we will enable them to find meaningful work. We want to help people pursue careers to support themselves and their families.”

 

President Delivers State of the Union Address

He bragged about the achievements of his administration so far and proposed ambitious legislative initiatives ahead. He hailed ordinary Americans who had done extraordinary things and called for new sense of national unity.

In other words, the most unconventional president in modern times, governing at a time of historic turbulence, delivered a conventional State of the Union that with some policy tweaks could have been given by any number of his recent predecessors.

In his speech, Trump adopted the language his White House predecessors have favored. The last five presidents, from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama, had declared that the state of the union was “strong.” So did Trump. “The state of our union is strong because our people are strong,” he said.

He took credit for the nation’s good economy, saying his administration had rolled back regulations, “ended the war on American energy” and “turned the page on decades of unfair trade deals.” He said the $1.5 trillion tax bill he signed in December, the only major legislation enacted last year, had brought “tremendous relief for the middle class and small businesses.”

He called for bipartisan action on his administration’s immigration plan, which would offer a path to citizenship for 1.8 million Dreamers, build a wall along the nation’s southern border, and curb some legal immigration. “A down-the-middle compromise,” he called it.

Trump also urged Democrats to join him in approving a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan, including changes in environmental and other regulations to streamline the approval process for road, bridge and sewage projects. “America is a nation of builders,” he said. “We built the Empire State Building in just one year. Isn’t it a disgrace that it can now take 10 years just to get a permit approved for a simple road?”

Tax ID Theft: Protection is a Year-Round Effort

While the vast majority of consumers will file their taxes and receive any refunds due without incident, an unlucky few will learn during the process that returns have already been filed in their names by scammers.

If you run into problems when you file, you may be a victim of tax identity theft. The following are indications that someone may have misused your identity to file a fraudulent return:

  • multiple returns were filed under your Social Security number,
  • you receive a letter or refund check regarding a return you did not file, or
  • you owe additional taxes or are facing collection actions for a year you did not file a return.

The risk of tax identity theft is very real in Wisconsin. In recent years, tax identity theft has been a key element of identity theft complaints received by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP).

“The best way to protect yourself from the risk of tax identity theft is to keep your financial and
personally identifiable information (such as your Social Security number, driver’s license number, bank account numbers, etc.) under lock and key throughout the year,” said Michelle Reinen, Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection.

Before you file, you can check whether a 2017 Wisconsin income tax return has been filed in your
name by visiting the Wisconsin Department of Revenue website (https://revenue.wi.gov; click on the “Online Services” link at the top of the homepage).

If you believe that you may be the victim of tax identity theft, report the suspected fraud by phone to the IRS (1-800-829-0433) and the Wisconsin Department of Revenue (1-608-266-2486).(NOTE: The IRS advises taxpayers to continue paying their taxes and filing their returns even if they suspect that they may be victims of identity theft.)

DATCP’s Consumer Protection Bureau offers a Tax ID Theft packet online (https://datcp.wi.gov) to assist consumers with next steps to protect against additional harm, and callers to the agency’s Consumer Protection Hotline (1-800-422-7128) can inquire about ways to further protect their identities.

Wisconsin Nonfatal Work Injury and Illness Rate Increases in 2016

According to estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Survey of Occupational injuries and Illnesses (SOII), there were 82,700 total injuries and illnesses reported by Wisconsin employers in 2016, an increase from the 78,800 total injuries and illnesses reported for 2015. The rate of injury and illness rose from 3.6 in 2015 to 3.8 cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers.

SOII is the largest work injury data survey conducted nationwide. The Wisconsin BLS program collects data annually from a representative sample of 6,000 establishments, with a 97% survey response rate.

Summary Key Findings:

• Private industry incident rate increased from 3.6 to 3.7. State and local government total incident rate decreased from 4.2 to 4.1.

• Manufacturing, professional and business services, and state and local government sectors show declines in rates from the prior year, while all other industries remained constant or showed increased rates.

• The number of cases increased across summary case types from 2015 to 2016 with the exception of job transfer or restriction cases: cases with days away, job transfer, or restriction (DART) increased from 39,600 to 41,800; cases with days away from work (DAFW) from 21,800 to 24,300; other recordable cases (ORC) from 39,200 to 40,800. Cases with job transfer or restriction (DJTR) only fell slightly from 17,800 to 17,500.

• Public sector sub-industries with the highest injury rates include: Local government Heavy and civil engineering construction (11.3), Local government Utilities (7.7), and Local government Transit and ground passenger transportation (6.9).

• Private sector sub-industries with the highest injury rates include: Leather and allied product
manufacturing (11.8), Couriers and messengers (7.4), and Construction of buildings (7.0).

Report: Wisconsin School Spending ‘Adequate’ and ‘Equitable’

Wisconsin’s school funding system is doing better than other states. That’s according to a recently released Wisconsin Policy Forum report  that ranks the state 16th in adequate spending and ninth in fair distribution, based on data from 2014.

The “School finance: Here vs. Elsewhere,” report from the public policy think tank comes out more than a month after the first meeting of a bipartisan legislative commission to examine school funding. Wisconsin schools get funding from a combination of state, federal, and local aid.

The Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding will gather information and draft a plan to update the state’s school funding system. The commission hopes to complete the plan by the next state budget in 2019.

Wisconsin Policy Forum research director Dale Knapp said it’s important for the Legislature to take a step back and examine the state’s funding model prior to changes.

“There may be flaws in our system,” Knapp said. “There may be things that we need to fix, but essentially, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Compared to everyone else, our system looks pretty good.”

The report also calls for simplifying the current school funding system. Knapp said when voters go to the polls they’re making decisions about school funding, and it needs to be more understandable.

Rep. Joel Kitchens, R-Sturgeon Bay, co-chairs the legislative commission. He agreed simplifying the funding system should be a priority.

“Especially when you have school districts going to referendums, it’s pretty difficult for, you know, citizens to understand whether they need more money when the formula is so complex,” Kitchens said. “I really think that there are very few people in the state that completely understand the funding formula.”

 

Governor Walker Calls for Swift, Bipartisan Action on Agenda

Gov. Scott Walker on Wednesday urged Republicans and Democrats to unite to quickly approve a $100-per child tax credit and a host of other election-year priorities, including guaranteeing insurance coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

The child credit Walker is proposing would equal $100 for every kid living at home under age 18 payable in cash this fall, shortly before he stands for re-election. There are about 1.2 million children in the state in 671,000 households. The $122 million cost would come from a state budget surplus. Starting in 2019, it would be a refundable $100 per child tax credit included in state income tax returns.

Walker is also seeking a federal waiver to allow Wisconsin to offer a reinsurance program to the roughly 200,000 people in Wisconsin who purchase health insurance on the private marketplace under the Affordable Care Act. Reinsurance, which has bipartisan support, basically sets up a pool of money for the government to cover the cost of insurers’ most expensive cases.  The governor estimates that the program would cost the state $50 million if the federal government pays for $150 million.

Walker also called on the Legislature to pass a law guaranteeing that no one with pre-existing conditions is denied coverage.

On welfare, Walker is asking the Republican-controlled Legislature to force parents on food stamps with school-aged children to work or be in job training, and to increase the work requirement already in place for childless adults. He’s also calling for mandating photo identification for food stamp recipients, a move long opposed by Democrats and others who say it’s an impediment to poor people getting food.

Walker is also calling for passage of a proposal in the Legislature to boost aid for rural schools and allow low-spending districts to raise their property taxes without a vote, similar to a change he vetoed from the state budget.

Hours before his speech Walker proposed spending $50 million more each year on programs targeting rural economic development.

State DOT Fills New Inspector General Position

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County, State Sales Tax Revenues Rise in 2017

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