News of the Day

Wisconsin Credit Rating Boosted to ‘Aa1’ by Moody’s

Wisconsin won a one-notch credit ratings upgrade to ‘Aa1’ from Moody’s Investors Service on Friday despite the state’s fiscal 2018-19 biennial budget being overdue.

The action affects about $8 billion of outstanding general obligation bonds, according to the credit ratings agency.

“The upgrade to ‘Aa1’ reflects the proven fiscal benefits of the state’s approach to granting and funding pension obligations when many other states are experiencing stress from rising costs and heavy liabilities; an economy that delivers steady but moderate growth; conservatively managed budgets, and adequate liquidity,” Moody’s said in a statement.

While Wisconsin began its new fiscal biennium on July 1, its Republican-controlled legislature has yet to pass a spending plan as lawmakers debate how to fund transportation projects and consider a $3 billion package of incentives for a new LCD screen plant by Taiwan’s Foxconn.

“We don’t consider occasional late budgets as having a credit impact,” said David Jacobson, a Moody’s spokesman.

Wisconsin’s Republican Governor Scott Walker hailed the upgrade, the first for the state from Moody’s since 1973, as an affirmation of its “fiscal stability driven by bold reforms and accountable stewardship of the taxpayer’s dollar.”

Wisconsin’s credit ratings with S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings are a notch lower at ‘AA’.

Economy Adds 209K Jobs in July

The U.S. economy added a solid 209,000 jobs in July, more than expected as the labor market shows few signs of slowing down. The labor market has churned out nearly 1.3 million jobs in the first seven months of the year.

The unemployment rate fell to 4.3 percent from 4.4, the Commerce Department reported on Friday.

In the past three months, the labor market has averaged growth of 195,000 jobs a month. Reports for May and June were revised upward by 2,000 jobs.

Hourly earnings ticked up slightly, 0.3 percent last month and have risen  2.5 percent over the year.

Retail remained weak last month, only adding 900 jobs in July.  Construction added 6,000 jobs and manufacturers hired 16,000 last month.

Wisconsin Becomes Latest State to Enact Skimming Penalties

Yesterday, Senate Bill 133, authored by Representative Rob Summerfield (R-Bloomer) and Senator Robert Cowles (R-Green Bay) was signed into law (2017 Wisconsin Act 54) by Governor Walker. This Act creates penalties for the possession, trafficking, and use of credit card skimmers.

“This was very rational legislation. Our state did not have the proper laws to address this modern crime, and communities were struggling with a way to combat it,” said Summerfield. “Now, thanks to this bill, we have specific penalties on the books to help protect Wisconsinites from being scammed.”

2017 Wisconsin Act 54 makes it a Class I felony to possess a credit card scanner with intent to commit identity theft; a Class H felony to possess a scanner with the intent to transfer the scanner to another, knowing the transferee will use it to commit identity theft; and a Class H felony to use or attempt to use a credit card scanner to commit identity theft (increased to a Class G felony if the person obtains something of value from the use).

To date, over two dozen communities throughout Wisconsin have been targeted by credit card skimming.

Small Businesses, “The Engine of the American Dream”

On Tuesday, President Donald J. Trump welcomed over 100 small business owners to the White House for an event highlighting small businesses, “The Engine of the American Dream.” Together with the Administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA), Linda McMahon, and Senior Advisor Ivanka Trump, President Trump demonstrated his Administration’s commitment to instituting policies that allow small businesses to flourish in America and to spotlight the large contributions that small businesses make to the American economy.

President Trump began his remarks in the East Room by thanking all the business owners for joining him at the White House and for the hard work they do across the Nation to create jobs and grow the economy. He then highlighted the steps his Administration has taken, and will continue to take, to end job-killing regulations, ease restrictions on American energy, and cut burdensome taxes. “America is on the verge of a golden age for small business,” said the President.

President Trump closed his remarks by reaffirming his commitment to America’s small businesses and assuring owners that his Administration will be behind them as they continue to grow and thrive in America. “You are the dreamers and innovators who are powering us into the future –- that’s exactly what you are — and my administration will be there with you every single step of the way,” he said.

After the President’s remarks, Administrator McMahon and Ivanka Trump held a question and answer session with the small business owners in the room. These small businesses represented numerous sectors of the American economy, including manufacturing, retail, and service. Topics of discussion included tax reform, growth resources, and regulatory relief.

President Trump has made economic and business reforms a central focus of his Administration. Small business is the engine of the American dream, and President Trump and his Administration are determined to create a competitive business climate and promote entrepreneurial success in the United States.

Vote on Foxconn Incentives Could Come in Mid-August

It could be mid-August before the Legislature votes on legislation providing incentives for Foxconn to build a plant in Wisconsin as lawmakers dive into details that include up to $252 million in contingency bonding for I-94 north-south and rollbacks of environmental regulations.

The legislation also would provide incentives designed to encourage Fiserv to keep its headquarters in Wisconsin as the Brookfield financial technology company continues evaluating a new location, including a possible move to Georgia.

Republican lawmakers are caucusing today to discuss the bill.

Kit Beyer, a spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said a public hearing is expected this week. Beyer said it was still being decided whether committees beyond the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee would review the proposal.

Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, meanwhile, said he hoped the legislation could make it through the committee process and hit the floor the week of Aug. 14. “We’ve got to do our due diligence,” he said. “We’ve got to realize probably a lot of this is baked in the cake and a lot of it has been negotiated by the administration, so I’m not sure how much wiggle room there is.”

Myranda Tanck, a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said the office is still reviewing the proposal and hasn’t yet decided on a timeline for action on it.

Steineke said the bonding included in the bill “may make it easier for the Senate, harder for us.” Bonding for roads has been at the heart of the budget impasse that has now stretched a full month into the new fiscal year.

The contingency bonding included in the Foxconn bill would improve the state’s position to apply for new Infrastructure for Rebuilding American grants, a separate pot of money from what Walker was targeting in his offer to GOP lawmakers this month. The bonding in the Foxconn deal also could rework the Legislature’s discussion on road funding for the next two years.

Under the bill, up to $252.4 million in general obligation bonding would be approved specifically for the I-94 north-south corridor. The state DOT would not be allowed to spend the bonds unless the state received federal money for the project.

The Trump administration earlier this month announced it would make roughly $1.5 billion available through the INFRA program to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure. INFRA was billed as re-working the existing FAST Act grant program to “encourage more parties to put skin in the game,” according to the administration’s announcement. Committing the state bonding for 94 north-south could improve the state’s chances for landing an INFRA grant.


Governor Calls Legislature Into “Wisconn Valley” Special Session

Governor Scott Walker has called a Special Session of the Wisconsin State Legislature to consider legislation that would bring Foxconn, the world’s largest electronics manufacturing services provider, to Wisconsin. Governor Walker’s executive order requires the Legislature to commence the Wisconn Valley Special Session at 11 a.m. on August 1, 2017, solely to consider and act upon the attached legislation.

“This is a once-in-a-century opportunity for our state and our country, and Wisconsin is ready,” Governor Walker said. “Foxconn plans to bring the future of high-tech manufacturing to America, and Wisconsin is going to lead the way. I am encouraged by the bipartisan support we have seen for Wisconn Valley, and I call on the Legislature to support this measure and open the door for 13,000 direct Foxconn jobs, 10,000 direct construction jobs, and 22,000 more indirect or induced jobs related to this project. This is good for our entire state.”

Under a Memorandum of Understanding signed yesterday by Governor Walker and Foxconn Founder and CEO Terry Gou, Foxconn plans to invest $10 billion by 2020 to build a world-class manufacturing campus in Southeastern Wisconsin. The campus will create 13,000 new jobs in the state and represents the largest new greenfield investment made by a foreign-based company in U.S. history.

The legislation proposes a $3 billion incentive package that is performance-based and includes state income tax credits as well as $150 million sales tax “holiday.” Foxconn will be eligible to earn tax credits equal to 17 percent of wages paid or 15 percent of capital invested spread out over a 15-year period.

Senate ObamaCare Repeal Bill Falls

The Senate rejected a scaled-back ObamaCare repeal bill in the early hours of Friday in a shocking vote that marks a major defeat for GOP leaders and the seven-year effort to repeal the health law.

The Senate voted 49-51 against the “skinny” bill, which would have repealed ObamaCare’s individual and employer mandates and defunded Planned Parenthood. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) provided the crucial vote against the bill, alongside GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska).

The so-called “skinny” bill was cast by Republicans as a way to keep their repeal hopes alive and get to negotiations with the House. Now, it appears that Republican hopes of repealing ObamaCare have been quashed.

In a speech from the Senate floor early Friday morning after the surprise failed vote, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said “it is time to move on.” “What we tried to accomplish for the American people was the right thing for the country,” McConnell said. “I think the American people are going to regret that we couldn’t find another way forward.”

Moving forward, McConnell invited Democrats to offer their ideas, but he seemed skeptical, saying that “bailing out insurance companies” would not be acceptable.

President Trump reacted on Twitter, saying the three Republicans and Democrats who all voted against the bill had let the country down.

Foxconn Announces $10 Billion Investment, Will Create 13,000 Jobs in New Wisconsin Campus

Foxconn Technology Group (Foxconn), the world’s largest electronics manufacturing services provider, announced yesterday it will invest $10 billion by 2020 to build a world-class manufacturing campus in Southeastern Wisconsin. The campus will create 13,000 new jobs in the state and represents the largest new greenfield investment made by a foreign-based company in U.S. history. Foxconn Founder and CEO Terry Gou made the announcement at the White House and was joined by President Donald J. Trump and Governor Scott Walker.

“This is a once-in-a-century opportunity for our state and our country, and Wisconsin is ready,” Governor Scott Walker said. “We are calling this development ‘Wisconn Valley,’ because we believe this will have a transformational effect on Wisconsin, just as Silicon Valley transformed the San Francisco Bay Area. Foxconn plans to bring the future of high-tech manufacturing to America, and Wisconsin is going to lead the way. We are honored Foxconn chose Wisconsin, and I thank Terry Gou for all he has done to make this happen.”

Employees at this new facility will manufacture state-of-the-art liquid crystal display (LCD) screens which will be used in everything from self-driving cars to aircraft systems and in the fields of education, entertainment, healthcare, safety and surveillance, advanced manufacturing systems, and office automation, among others. Foxconn is a global leader in manufacturing services for the computer, communication, and consumer electronics (3C) industry – championing innovation that touches the daily lives of people around the world.

“We are thrilled to build a state-of-the art display fabrication plant in America’s heartland, which will be the first of a series of facilities we are building in several U.S. states as part of a robust 8K+5G ecosystem in the United States,” said Foxconn Founder and CEO Terry Gou. “We thank President Trump and Governor Walker for their work to bring Foxconn to Wisconsin. Wisconsin offers a talented, hardworking workforce, and a long track record in advanced manufacturing, all of which presents an extraordinary opportunity.”

Foxconn first established operations in the United States in 1988 and has facilities and offices in Alabama, California, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia. Their operations include manufacturing, assembly and R&D facilities, as well as offices which are involved in sourcing from U.S. supply chain partners, product servicing, and manufacturing sales.

“Cutting edge technology will be made in America; right in the State of Wisconsin,” Governor Walker continued. “Wisconsin has the best manufacturing workforce in the world, a top 10 business climate, and the education and transportation systems needed to attract this type of global corporation. We are moving Wisconsin forward.”

Senate Republicans Vote to Move Ahead on Obamacare Repeal

Senate Republicans voted Tuesday to open debate on repealing Obamacare, dramatically reviving an effort that many GOP lawmakers left for dead just a few days ago.

The vote is no guarantee that the fractured Republican caucuses can coalesce around a single health care plan. “There’s a lot of work ahead of us and I don’t think anybody’s taking anything for granted,” said Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.). “If we can get something by the end of this week through the Senate it would at least position us so that we can get to conference with the House.”

The leading idea now is to repeal only a small portion of the health law in order to get a bill to a conference with the House.

Republicans would aim to enact a bill repealing three parts of Obamacare: the individual and employer mandates and the medical device tax, according to Republican sources. It could be expanded or altered depending on where the bulk of the conference is.

“Whatever gets to 50,” said Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.).

The goal would be to get an Obamacare repeal bill through the Senate and to a conference with the House. Or perhaps to pass a bill that the House would accept given opposition among some House members to a bicameral conference committee.


State Consumer Protection Hotline Subjected to ‘Spoofing ’

It appears the Wisconsin Consumer Protection Hotline phone number is being “spoofed.”

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) has received a number of reports from consumers stating they received a call from the Consumer Protection Hotline today as our 800 number appeared on their caller ID.

The Bureau of Consumer Protection does not make phone calls to consumers using the 800 number. It is there for consumers and businesses to contact the Bureau to report a problem, file a complaint, or ask questions about consumer laws.

If we do call a consumer, the number that appears on a caller ID is our local phone number with a 608 area code. We will not call you “out of the blue” or randomly. We will only call consumers if you left a message for a return call or if you filed a complaint with us. We also identify ourselves and tell you why we are calling.

One consumer reported the message left by the caller was about the WI Do Not Call list. Others indicated there was no message, only that the 800 number appeared on their caller ID. Wisconsin consumers are not the only ones receiving these “spoofed” calls, as reports have come in from people in seven other states at this point.

Should you receive this call, don’t answer or engage the caller – just hang up.