The 53-page document lays out his vision: To turn $200 billion in federal money into $1.5 trillion for fixing America’s infrastructure by leveraging local and state tax dollars and private investment.
Half of the new federal money, $100 billion, would be parceled out as incentives to local government entities.
An additional $20 billion would go toward “projects of national significance.”.
Another $50 billion is earmarked for rural block grants, most of which will be given to states according to a formula based on the miles of rural roads and the rural population they have. States can then spend that money on transportation, broadband, water, waste and power projects.
The rest of the money would support other infrastructure-related undertakings, including existing loan programs like the one operated by the Environmental Protection Agency under the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, which White House officials said could leverage up to $40 in local and private money for every $1 in federal investment.
The plan proposes to cut federal permitting to two years, down from five to ten. Former President Obama also tried to address the problem through an executive order that instructed agencies to use better technology and work concurrently on their reviews in order to cut down on approval times.
The plan also calls for changes aimed at widening the pipeline of skilled construction workers, such as allowing Pell Grants to be used for short-term credentials from places like community colleges and targeting federal work-study funding toward on-the-job training.
Finally, the plan proposes to allow the federal government to quickly and more easily sell assets that it says “would be better managed by state, local, or private entities.” As examples of property that could be divested, the plan named the Ronald Reagan and Dulles International Airports, the Tennessee Valley Authority and Bonneville Power Authority’s transmission assets, and the Washington Aqueduct, which supplies Washington, D.C. with fresh drinking water.
Wisconsin is on track to join states such as Minnesota and Oregon that have a program to help lessen the problems with the Affordable Care Act.
Gov. Scott Walker, a longstanding opponent of the law, has proposed using a mix of federal and state dollars to lower premiums — or at least check future increases — for insurance sold directly to individuals and families.
The proposed program would pay as much as 80% of the insurance claims of people with high medical bills, lowering insurers’ costs and enabling them to set rates with more certainty.
The program, known as reinsurance, addresses one of the key problems with the Affordable Care Act: The health plans have drawn too many people with high medical bills and not enough healthy people to offset the costs.
That has contributed to health insurers incurring large losses that lead to steep increases in premiums. The hope is that a state-run reinsurance program would lower rates and pull more healthy people into the market.
A similar program in Minnesota is estimated to have lowered premiums by 20% compared with what they would have been otherwise this year. Reinsurance also has worked well in the market for Medicare prescription drug plans, known as Part D, sold by private health insurers.
An array of stakeholders, including the Wisconsin Hospital Association and the Wisconsin Medical Society, support the governor’s proposal. Nationally, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, as well as policy experts across the political spectrum, have endorsed reinsurance as one of the ways to help stabilize the market for insurance sold directly to individuals and families.
Wisconsin families with school-aged children would receive a one-time $100 tax rebate this summer and state sales tax would be waived on certain purchases the first weekend in August under a deal Gov. Scott Walker and Assembly Republicans announced on Thursday.
The Assembly will approve the plan later this month, Vos said. It’s not clear what will happen in the Senate, which must also approve it before it goes to Walker. Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald’s spokesman did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Under the deal, families with children who were between the ages of 5 and 17 last year and are now living at home would receive $100 for each qualifying kid. The money, estimated to come to about $122 million of the state’s budget surplus, would be delivered to all families regardless of income sometime in July. That is unchanged from what Walker had originally proposed.
“As I promised, when we have a surplus, we will give it back to you,” Walker said in a statement. “It’s your money.”
Walker originally wanted to offer a refundable income-tax credit starting in 2019, but that plan has been scrapped. Instead, there will be a one-time waiver of the state’s 5 percent sales tax on certain purchases, provided they cost less than $100 and are made in the first weekend in August. The total estimated cost to the state in lost tax revenue would be about $50 million.
“Our goal is actually to increase the economic ability of families this year,” Vos said, noting that the benefit will extend to all families regardless of income.
Wisconsin businesses exported $22.3 billion in goods and services to 202 countries in 2017, a 6.1 percent increase over 2016.
“Not only is Wisconsin becoming more attractive to global companies seeking to expand or establish operations in the U.S., but existing state businesses are experiencing more success in selling their products overseas,” Governor Walker said. “The boost in exports is yet another example of the economic success we experienced in 2017 and is a trend we expect to continue as more companies are accessing new markets and new customers through exporting.”
Wisconsin’s export growth in 2017 was generated by significant increases in shipments to Canada, Mexico, and China, the state’s three largest export destinations.
- Exports to Canada grew by 4.3 percent to $6.9 billion, driven by increases in the export of miscellaneous mineral products and electrical machinery.
- Exports to Mexico were up 4.8 percent to a record $3.2 billion, mostly because of an increase in the export of electrical machinery and oil seeds (primarily soybeans).
- Exports to China jumped by 21.6 percent to $1.7 billion in 2017 – also a record for exports to that country. Driving the growth in exports to China were increases in the shipments of aircraft and parts; industrial machinery; dairy products; wood and wood products; and raw hides and skins.
Wisconsin exported more than $3.5 billion in agriculture products to 147 countries in 2017, a 3.6 percent increase over 2016. The state saw increases agriculture exports to Canada (up 1.5 percent); Mexico (up 14.2 percent); China (up 27.6 percent) and Korea (up 0.3 percent).
Exports of dairy, eggs and honey products in 2017 were up 19.9 percent over 2016 to $297 million. The state ranks fifth in the U.S. in exports of those products.
Overall, Wisconsin saw increases in numerous key product categories, including electrical machinery (up 12.4 percent to $2.2 billion); vehicles and vehicle parts (up 21.7 percent to $1.9 billion); industrial machinery (up 3.6 percent to $5.4 billion); plastic products (up 2.8 percent to $1.1 billion); aircraft and parts (up 27.8 percent to $750 million); paper products (up 3.1 percent to $881 million); prep vegetables, fruits and nuts (up 8.9 percent to $341 million); oil seeds, miscellaneous grain, seed and fruit (up 35.7 percent to $310 million; and wood and wood products (up 13.3 percent to $254 million).
Industrial machinery continued to be Wisconsin’s top export product category at $5.4 billion, accounting for 24 percent of all state exports. Tied for second were electrical machinery and medical and scientific instruments, both coming in a $2.2 billion – and each garnering 10 percent of the total exports.
Democratic state lawmakers argue it’s time to give local governments more control over how businesses treat their employees.
The package of bills, deemed the “Local Wage Act,” would repeal a state law that prevents local governments from setting their own minimum wage and would allow them to enact their own family and medical leave standards.
Wisconsin’s minimum wage of $7.25 an hour was last increased in 2009, when Democrats were in charge of state government. State Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) says Republicans have done nothing to address the issue for the past eight years, while the state has fallen behind. “It is time to give back the right of communities, local control, to set their own standards for how they value work and the people who do it,” he says.
The proposals are unlikely to see much movement under the current Republican-controlled Legislature.
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.”
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?”