News of the Day

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.

DATCP Secretary Ben Brancel to Retire in August

Wisconsin’s longest serving agriculture secretary is about to call it a career. Ben Brancel, who served as the leader of the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection non-consecutively for 10 of the past 20 years, announced at the agency’s monthly board meeting on Thursday that he will retire on August 13.

“It has been my pleasure to serve as Secretary,” Brancel wrote in a letter to the board. “I have given this much thought about when is the right time to retire. I came to the conclusion that there always will be unfinished business to be done, but now is the time to return to my family’s farm full-time in Marquette County as we plan for our first ever production sale. My son and daughter-in-law are now the sixth generation to farm the land. My first job was a farmer, and my last job will be a farmer.”

Brancel, who turns 67 later this month, is a fifth-generation beef producer from Endeavor, where he raises Angus beef cattle on a 290-acre farm with help from his wife, Gail. After serving on the Marquette County board of supervisor and local school board, he was elected to serve in the State Assembly’s 42nd district in 1987. Over the following decade, he would rise through the ranks and become Assembly Speaker until 1997 when then-Governor Tommy Thompson tapped him to run the DATCP after Alan Tracy left for another job.

After being replaced by former Governor Scott McCullum in 2001, Brancel was appointed by the George W. Bush Administration to serve as the director of the Wisconsin Farm Service Agency–a post he held until early 2009. He was then hired to serve as the part-time state relations liaison for the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, a position funded from donor resources.

Ben returned to DATCP under Gov. Scott Walker’s appointment in 2011; and has been a hands-on secretary who was instrumental in drafting and implementing major legislative policies ranging from non-point source pollution revisions to updating implements of husbandry standards. He also took a personal role in helping dozens of Wisconsin dairy farmers find new buyers for their milk this past April when several dairy plants were forced to abruptly drop many of their patrons. And he took part in numerous international trade missions with the goal of spurring new business relationships with customers abroad.

In a statement, Gov. Walker called Brancel a leader who served with distinction.

“His leadership and counsel on agriculture and trade issues have been invaluable to me, and I thank him for his service and dedication to the people of Wisconsin,” Walker said. “We wish Ben and his wife, Gail, all the very best as they begin this new and exciting chapter.”

State of Wisconsin Launches Site to Connect Students with Internships

The state Department of Workforce Development is seeking to boost the number of college students with internships at Wisconsin companies with a new website that’s similar to its Jobs Center of Wisconsin.

The website, www.internshipwisconsin.com, and its flagship tool, WisConnect, seeks to match employers with potential interns.

College students with an active .edu email address can create an account, upload their resume and search for opportunities by geography, major and other categories.

Employers who have created a Job Center of Wisconsin profile are able to use the same sign-in information to access the site and internships posted on the Job Center site will also be posted on WisConnect. Employers will be able to search for candidates by key skills, major and location.

The project is a partnership between the department, the University of Wisconsin System, the Wisconsin Technical College System and the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.

“Employers tell us they want and need more talent, and we must do all we can to point students towards an internship or other professional experience, which can be instrumental in retaining new graduates right here in Wisconsin,” said UW System President Ray Cross.

Lawmakers allocated funding last year to create two Department of Workforce Development positions focused on coordinating efforts to boost internships with higher education institutions.

The department says three-quarters of interns who are offered a full-time position accept it and more than half of those who come on full-time stay for at least five years. The external hire five-year retention rate is 36 percent, the department says.

State Senate Republicans Unveil Budget Plan

State Senate Republicans have announced a plan to end the 18-day standoff over the state’s overdue budget. The 2017-19 state spending plan released Tuesday provides the most detailed look at where Senate Republicans stand on unresolved areas of the budget, such as taxes and funding for schools, roads and bridges.

While Tuesday’s proposal is intended to restart budget discussions, Fitzgerald acknowledged, even as he unveiled it, that he’s not sure if the Senate could pass the measure as-is. “I’m not going to make that prediction that I have the votes right now,” Fitzgerald said.

Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, said the Senate plan contained few new proposals, but a “wide gap” remains on transportation funding, the main issue holding up the budget’s passage. Still, Assembly GOP leaders said the plan’s arrival is good news.

“It’s good to see Senate Republicans have solidified their positions and are ready to come back to the table,” Assembly Republican leaders, including Vos, said in a statement.

Walker’s spokesman Tom Evenson also tweeted Tuesday that the governor “welcomes the initiative by the state Senate to move the process forward while keeping his priorities largely intact on K-12 education funding, property tax relief, and transportation. The governor will continue to champion income tax relief.”

The budget proposal includes K-12 school proposals that have largely been negotiated with Assembly Republican leaders, including increasing the number of families eligible for a taxpayer-funded voucher to attend a private school, Fitzgerald said.

On transportation funding — where the gap between Assembly and Senate GOP leaders appears greatest — Fitzgerald said his plan would avoid delays to major highway projects, in part with $712 million in new borrowing.

Assembly Republicans have said they won’t support new road borrowing without a plan to pay for it. Senate Republicans and Gov. Scott Walker have resisted proposals to provide more revenue for roads and bridges.

The Senate GOP plan uses most of its extra borrowing to fund massive freeway projects in southeast Wisconsin, including on U.S. Interstate 94 near Milwaukee. It also would repeal the prevailing wage requirement for state-funded projects, as Walker proposed. Two years ago, Walker and lawmakers repealed prevailing wage for projects funded by local governments.

The Senate plan would eliminate 200 state Department of Transportation staff positions and end DOT studies of possible future highway expansions, including one for the Madison Beltline. Fitzgerald said the plan does not move the state closer to collecting highway tolls, a step state leaders had weighed heavily in recent months.

The Senate plan includes several key tax changes, including eliminating the state’s personal property tax and alternative minimum tax. It excludes Walker’s proposal for a state income tax cut, which would cut the tax rates of the two bottom income brackets.

Another Walker proposal that doesn’t make the Senate plan is a sales tax holiday for two days in August for school supplies, which would cost the state about $22 million in revenue.