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Governor Walker Proposes Plan to Prop Up Obamacare Marketplace

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Governor Walker Calls for Special Session on Welfare Reform

Yesterday, Governor Scott Walker today called for a special session of the Wisconsin Legislature to pass Wisconsin Works for Everyone welfare reform legislation authored by Speaker Robin Vos (R – Rochester) and Senator Chris Kapenga (R – Delafield).

“With more people working in Wisconsin than ever before, we can’t afford to have anyone on the sidelines: we need everyone in the game,” said Governor Walker. “That’s why I am calling a special session to take up our Wisconsin Works for Everyone welfare reform plan. We want to remove barriers to work and make it easier to get a job, while making sure public assistance is available for those who truly need it. Wisconsin is going to lead the way on welfare reform.”

The Wisconsin Works for Everyone welfare reform plan comprehensively addresses welfare reform. Several key initiatives include reforms to Wisconsin’s FoodShare system and the FoodShare Employment and Training (FSET) program, which provides hands-on job training and job search resources and has helped more than 24,000 FoodShare recipients learn an employable skillset and reenter the workforce.

Proposed reforms to the FSET program under the Wisconsin Works for Everyone plan include requiring participation in the FSET program for able-bodied adults; an increase in the work requirement for FoodShare recipients from 20 hours per week to 30 hours per week; requiring FSET participants to pass a drug test and providing treatment for those who fail; implement photo ID for FoodShare participants; and incentivizing businesses participating in the program to encourage expanding their training offerings to serve more workers.

Additional proposed reforms under the plan include opening health savings accounts for people receiving medical assistance; providing monthly advance payments for Earned Income Tax Credit recipients instead of the current system in which recipients wait for their tax return; requiring public assistance recipients to remain current on child support payments; and establishing asset limits for people receiving certain forms of public assistance. Several items in this welfare reform package would require federal approval or federal law change.

 

Wisconsin Budget: Projection Shows $138 million Improvement

The Legislature’s nonpartisan budget office estimated that Wisconsin would reach June 2019 with $385 million in its main account, better than the $248 million that had been previously expected.

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau said that the improved projection was a result of tax collections coming in $76 million higher than expected and the state spending $98 million less than expected because of favorable debt refinancing.

State tax revenue is doing well enough on other fronts to make up for a $49 million the Walker administration predicts will be lost as a result of the federal tax cuts signed last month by President Donald Trump. The decrease largely results from allowing businesses to immediately deduct some purchases of equipment and other goods.

Produce Safety Rules take Effect January 26 for Largest Fresh Market Growers

New food safety regulations take effect January 26 for Wisconsin’s biggest growers of fresh market fruit and vegetables, but regulators will focus on educating farmers during the first year of regulation. Enforcement will not begin in earnest until 2019.

The new regulations, part of the sweeping federal Food Safety Modernization Act, take effect this month for growers with more than $500,000 in annual revenue from food sales. Smaller farms have another year or two years to comply, depending on their size. Growers should focus on meeting training requirements first, so that they understand the new requirements.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection is working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to implement the changes. FDA has emphasized that the 2018 focus is on outreach to farmers. A team from DATCP has been traveling throughout the state since last June to answer growers’ questions at farm shows and conferences. The team will continue these efforts in 2018, and also work with outside organizations to provide mandatory training.

The mandatory training course, developed by the Produce Safety Alliance and Cornell University and approved by the FDA, covers the scope of the regulations and how growers can meet the requirements.

Regulatory inspections for large farms will begin in 2019. Before then, farms can request a “readiness review,” a non-regulatory assessment by a team of state officials, extension agents and FDA produce experts to gauge a farm’s readiness for inspection.

U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Online Sales Tax Case

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear a case about whether states can require out-of-state online retailers to collect their sales taxes.

In agreeing to hear the case, South Dakota v. Wayfair, the court will revisit a 1992 decision in which it ruled that states could only require remote sellers to collect their sales taxes if the business had a physical presence in the state.

The case before the Supreme Court involves a South Dakota law enacted in 2016 that would allow the state to require out-of-state online retailers with a significant economic connection to the state to collect its sales taxes.

Supporters of South Dakota’s case include groups representing state and local governments and brick-and-mortar retailers.  “The Court’s decision to grant South Dakota’s petition is an important signal for retailers that invest in storefronts and jobs in local communities,” said Deborah White, general counsel and retail litigation center president for the Retail Industry Leaders Association.

But some online businesses and lawmakers think that the 1992 decision should be upheld. A group of lawmakers that included Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) had encouraged the Supreme Court not to hear the case, saying that the online sales tax issue should be left up to Congress to address.

 

State Senate Bill Aims to Create “Fair, Consistent” Statewide Employment Regulations

The Senate’s Labor Committee heard testimony Wednesday on a bill aimed at ending the “patchwork” of employment laws across the state.

The bill, authored by Sen. Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield) and Rep. Rob Hutton (R-Brookfield), prohibits local government from regulating policy on employee hours and overtime, employment benefits, and wage claims and collections. Employers would be able to ask prospective employees about salary information under the bill, and local governments couldn’t create employment discrimination regulations stricter than state laws.

In short, local governments would be prohibited from implementing employment law different from state regulations. Above all, the legislation is about uniformity, consistency, and predictability, its authors say. It would be a huge victory for red tape-cutting warriors.

 

 

 

Updated 2018 Federal Withholding Tables Now Available

Yesterday, the Internal Revenue Service released Notice 1036, which updates the income-tax withholding tables for 2018 reflecting changes made by the tax reform legislation enacted last month. This is the first in a series of steps that IRS will take to help improve the accuracy of withholding following major changes made by the new tax law.

The updated withholding information, posted today on IRS.gov, shows the new rates for employers to use during 2018. Employers should begin using the 2018 withholding tables as soon as possible, but not later than February 15, 2018. They should continue to use the 2017 withholding tables until implementing the 2018 withholding tables.

The new withholding tables are designed to work with the Forms W-4 that workers have already filed with their employers to claim withholding allowances. This will minimize burden on taxpayers and employers. Employees do not have to do anything at this time.

The new law makes a number of changes for 2018 that affect individual taxpayers. The new tables reflect the increase in the standard deduction, repeal of personal exemptions and changes in tax rates and brackets.

For people with simpler tax situations, the new tables are designed to produce the correct amount of tax withholding. The revisions are also aimed at avoiding over- and under-withholding of tax as much as possible.

To help people determine their withholding, the IRS is revising the withholding tax calculator on IRS.gov. The IRS anticipates this calculator should be available by the end of February. Taxpayers are encouraged to use the calculator to adjust their withholding once it is released.

The IRS is also working on revising the Form W-4. Form W-4 and the revised calculator will reflect additional changes in the new law, such as changes in available itemized deductions, increases in the child tax credit, the new dependent credit and repeal of dependent exemptions.

The calculator and new Form W-4 can be used by employees who wish to update their withholding in response to the new law or changes in their personal circumstances in 2018, and by workers starting a new job. Until a new Form W-4 is issued, employees and employers should continue to use the 2017 Form W-4.

More information is available in the Withholding Tables Frequently Asked Questions.

State Lawmakers Push to Support ‘White Space’ Broadband Technologies

Wisconsin lawmakers are calling for more certainty for those developing “white space” broadband technologies.

Tech companies want to use portions of the TV spectrum to deliver broadband service to rural areas. Advocates of the technology say it can be implemented more reliably and at greater distance than other wireless broadband options, and that it’s cheaper and faster than running fiber optic cables to areas that could take years to receive service.

Despite the push to develop the technology, which relies on unused TV frequencies for access, it has so far only seen limited testing in the United States. State Representative Mary Felzkowski (R-Irma) says a lack of certainty from the federal government on the same three frequencies remaining available is a big reason for development being slowed down.

“Until there is regulatory certainty out of the FCC that these three channels will be available, dedicated…that investment from the private sector is not going to happen as fast as we want,” she argues.

Republican state lawmakers have proposed a resolution that would have the state join those asking the FCC and Congress to provide that certainty to developers. Once it’s there, Felzkowski says there are estimates that the technology could address most of the state’s rural broadband access issues over the course of the next five to seven years. “The laying of the fiber and the cost to do that is going to be much longer,” she argues.

Lawmakers expect the resolution to be taken up and passed by the state Assembly and Senate later this month.

Lawmakers Search for Immigration Consensus After Trump Meeting

Lawmakers from both parties have begun translating President Donald Trump’s broad-brush ideas for an immigration deal into legislation that can survive hard liners’ opposition and win bipartisan support.

Trump on Tuesday gave Republicans political cover to negotiate a deal with Democrats that would make DACA part of the law and give protection against deportation to some 800,000 young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.

While Trump didn’t back off his demands on border security — including a wall on U.S.-Mexico border — restrictions on family preferences in immigration and an end to a diversity visa lottery, he made clear he would leave the details up to Congress.

Senate Republican Whip Cornyn said he expected to meet Wednesday with No. 2 Senate Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and House Democratic Whip Steny of Maryland to talk about a timetable for meetings on crafting a compromise. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen will also be part of all of the talks, he said.

 

States Exploring Tax Changes in Response to Federal Overhaul

In New Jersey and California, top Democratic officials want to let people make charitable contributions to the state instead of paying certain taxes. In Connecticut and New York, officials are exploring a switch from income taxes to new ones on payroll. A few governors have even called for tax cuts.

The ideas are bubbling up as state lawmakers begin their 2018 sessions and assess the effects of the Republican tax overhaul that President Donald Trump signed into law last month. Lawmakers and governors in some states are grappling with how to protect their constituents.

The federal policy implements a maze of changes. It cuts tax rates and nearly doubles the standard income deduction. Yet it also caps or eliminates some popular itemized deductions, and sets the personal exemptions to zero.

More than 40 states have income taxes, and nearly all of them rely to some degree on definitions from the federal tax code.

Economists expect that many states will see their revenue rise because they tie their tax laws to federal provisions such as those on personal exemptions, which lower the bills based on the size of households.

 In Maryland and Michigan, the Republican governors have said they will introduce tax cuts to compensate, after the GOP bill eliminated the personal exemption.