News of the Day

Five Key Takeaways from U.S.-Mexico Trade Deal

The United States and Mexico agreed on Monday to a sweeping trade deal that pressures Canada to accept new terms on autos trade, dispute settlement and agriculture to keep the trilateral North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said the White House was ready to notify the U.S. Congress by Friday of President Donald Trump’s intent to sign the bilateral document, but that it was open to Canada joining the pact. Here are some of the main issues at the heart of the negotiations:

  • The new deal requires 75% of the value of a vehicle to be produced in the United States or Mexico, up from the NAFTA threshold of 62.5%. The higher threshold is aimed at keeping more parts from Asia out, boosting North American automotive manufacturing and jobs.
  • The United States and Mexico agreed to a 16-year lifespan for NAFTA, with a review every six years that can extend the pact for 16 years more, providing more business certainty.
  • Mexico agreed to eliminate a settlement system for anti-dumping disputes, NAFTA’s Chapter 19. The move, sought by the United States, puts Canada in a difficult position because Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had insisted on maintaining Chapter 19 as a way to fight U.S. duties on softwood lumber, paper and other products that it views as unfair.
  • The new deal will keep tariffs on agricultural products traded between the United States and Mexico at zero and seeks to support biotech and other innovations in agriculture. It lacks a previous U.S. demand to erect trade barriers to protect seasonal U.S. fruit and vegetable growers from Mexican competition.
  • It contains enforceable labor provisions that require Mexico to adhere to International Labor Organization labor rights standards in an effort to drive Mexican wages higher.


State Launching $1.9 million Campaign to Attract Veterans

The state of Wisconsin is launching a $1.9 million effort to convince military personnel and their spouses to relocate to the state when they transition to civilian life, Gov. Scott Walker announced Friday.

The campaign is part of $6.8 million state lawmakers approved earlier this year for marketing to attract potential workers to the state. An initial campaign targeted millennials in the Chicago-area earlier this year. That effort expands to other Midwestern cities this fall and the state targets alumni of higher education institutions in Wisconsin as well.

“As our dedicated members of the military prepare to return to civilian life, they are looking for the best place possible to start a new career, raise a family and enjoy an outstanding quality of life. We are going to make a strong case that Wisconsin can meet all those needs – and more,” Walker said in a statement.

The veteran campaign includes sending a delegation of Wisconsin officials to military bases in California, Washington, North Carolina, Hawaii, Missouri, Texas, Georgia, Germany and Japan. The governor’s office says the state is the first to partner with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring our Heroes program. The delegation will be attending Hiring our Heroes’ summits at each base, starting with Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base in California on Wednesday and Thursday of next week.

Other elements of the effort include a paid media campaign that will run through June 30, 2019. Social media posts targeting transitioning veterans, geo-targeted digital ads around bases the delegation is visiting and print and online ads in publications targeting transitioning veterans and their spouses are all included in the paid media campaign.

A section of, the state’s talent attraction website, will be dedicated to info for veterans. The Department of Workforce Development is also adding a military occupation code search tool to its website to help veterans find jobs matching their skillsets.

Imposter Scam: Fake Utility Calls

Imposter scammers are posing as a local utility company in order to demand money for supposed late payments or required upgrades. Wisconsin residents should be on the lookout for threatening calls about their gas or electric accounts and hang up on anyone who demands an immediate payment on behalf of the local utility provider.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection’s (DATCP) Consumer Protection Hotline has received more than two dozen reports in the last 24 hours from Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) customers about these phony calls. The crooks threaten call recipients with disconnection of services unless an immediate payment is made, and some of the scammers mentioned a work order number, truck number, and phone number to make their story seem more legitimate.

While most of these recent reports to DATCP have been about contacts from fake WPS representatives, DATCP has also received reports about imposter WE Energies calls. This scam is very common and con artists will claim to work for whatever utility company services the area they are targeting. Regardless of your utility provider, if you receive a similar threatening call about your home or business utility account, hang up and do not engage the caller.

Avoid being tricked by remembering these simple guidelines:

 Utility companies will contact you by mail if your account is overdue.

 If a caller demands a utility payment by prepaid debit card, gift card, or wire transfer, it is a scam.

 Scammers can manipulate your caller ID display to show the local utility company’s name or number when they call.

 Contact your utility provider directly using information from your billing statement to inquire about the status of your account and to report the call.

For additional information or to file a complaint, visit the Consumer Protection Bureau at, send an e-mail to, or call the Consumer Protection
Hotline toll-free at 1-800-422-7128.

Governor Calls for Interstate 41 Expansion in Fox Valley

Gov. Scott Walker on Wednesday directed the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to evaluate the possible expansion of Interstate 41 between Appleton and De Pere.

A number of state and local officials have previously pushed for the expansion to ease congestion on the increasingly busy stretch of interstate.

The stretch of I-41 from Breezewood Lane in Neenah to the north junction of State 441 in Appleton has averaged nearly 470 crashes a year in the last five years, according to the DOT.

“After speaking with community leaders and elected officials regarding the importance of Interstate 41 to the continued growth of northeastern Wisconsin, I am calling on the Department of Transportation to evaluate expanding the Interstate 41 section between Appleton and De Pere,” Walker said in a released statement.

If the expansion would happen, it would come on the heels of a seven-year project that saw I-41 expanded from De Pere to just north of Green Bay. That $1 billion project, which stretched from 2010 to 2017, revamped 14 miles of the interstate.


EPA Proposes Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule

Yesterday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a new rule to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from existing coal-fired electric utility generating units and power plants across the country.

This proposal, entitled the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule, establishes emission guidelines for states to use when developing plans to limit GHGs at their power plants. The ACE Rule replaced the prior administration’s overly prescriptive and burdensome Clean Power Plan (CPP) and instead empowers states, promotes energy independence, and facilitates economic growth and job creation.

The proposal will work to reduce GHG emissions through four main actions:

  • ACE defines the “best system of emission reduction” (BSER) for existing power plants as on-site, heat-rate efficiency improvements;
  • ACE provides states with a list of “candidate technologies” that can be used to establish standards of performance and be incorporated into their state plans;
  • ACE updates the New Source Review (NSR) permitting program to further encourage efficiency improvements at existing power plants; and
  • ACE aligns regulations under CAA section 111(d) to give states adequate time and flexibility to develop their state plans.

EPA’s regulatory impact analysis (RIA) for this proposal includes a variety of scenarios. These scenarios are illustrative because the statute gives states the flexibility needed to consider unit-specific factors – including a particular unit’s remaining useful life – when it comes to standards of performance. Key findings include the following:

  • EPA projects that replacing the CPP with the proposal could provide $400 million in annual net benefits;
  • The ACE Rule would reduce the compliance burden by up to $400 million per year when compared to CPP; and
  • EPA estimates that the ACE Rule could reduce 2030 CO2 emissions by up to 1.5% from projected levels without the CPP –  the equivalent of taking 5.3 million cars off the road. Further, these illustrative scenarios suggest that when states have fully implemented the proposal, U.S. power sector CO2 emissions could be 33% to 34% below 2005 levels, higher than the projected CO2 emissions reductions from the CPP.

Wisconsin’s Tight Housing Market Continues to Show Signs of Improvement

For the second straight month the number of homes for sale has risen in Wisconsin.

The report from the Wisconsin Realtors Association released Monday found home inventory rose 3.4 percent last month compared to the same time last year.

Two straight months of increases, after more than a year of declining inventory, could mean the state’s issues with housing supply may be easing, says David Clark of Marquette University

“These are peak months for closing on homes,” Clark said. “To see some improvement in inventories, even in those high-volume months, is a suggestion that maybe we have turned the corner a little bit.”

Clark said the limited supply of homes for sale has been driving up prices.

The median price of an existing home in July stood at $192,900, up 7.5 percent from July 2017.

Rising home prices, he said, can motivate homeowners to sell.

“We’ve seen pretty consistent upward movement in prices, and the increase in prices has put some incentive for new sellers to list their homes,” Clark said.

While inventory rose in July, sales of existing homes dropped about 3 percent last month compared to July 2017.

Home sales from January through July are down about 3 percent from the same period last year.

Wisconsin Added 9,100 Private Sector Jobs in July

Wisconsin added 9,100 private sector jobs in July and the state’s unemployment rate remained 2.9 percent, according to federal Bureau of Labor Statistics data released by the state Department of Workforce Development.

An increase of 2,800 jobs in leisure and hospitality, 2,400 in durable goods manufacturing and 2,300 in education and health services helped drive the increase. Professional and business services was the only sector with a decrease in employment, down 1,300. Government employment was also down 400.

The state’s labor force participation rate remained unchanged at 68.9 percent. The number of people classified as unemployed increased 1,800 to 92,900. Overall employment decreased 2,000.

According to the latest data, the state added 28,400 private sector jobs during the first half of 2018. The state has added 38,500 private sector jobs from July 2017 to July 2018, according to the DWD release. That includes the addition of 21,300 manufacturing jobs over that period of time.

Equalized Values Report Shows 4% Increase in Property Value

The Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR) released its annual Equalized Value Report. The report shows that Wisconsin’s total statewide equalized property value as of January 1, 2018, was $549 billion, a 4 percent increase over the prior year. Equalized Values are based on data from January 1, 2017 to January 1, 2018.

Wisconsin residential property was valued at $388 billion as of January 1, 2018, an increase of 5.1 percent, or $18.9 billion. The 5.1 percent increase marks the greatest one-year increase in residential values since 2007.

The DOR report also shows construction activity continues an upward trend. Wisconsin added $8.5 billion in new construction during 2017, including $4.2 billion in residential property,  $3.7 billion in commercial property, and $437 million in manufacturing property.

The DOR report indicates commercial property values are $109 billion, an increase of 6.8 percent or $7 billion. Manufacturing property is valued at $15 billion, an increase of 4.5 percent or $652 million from the prior year. Agricultural land is valued at $2 billion, an increase of 2.5 percent from a year earlier. Lastly, the value of personal property decreased by 27.3 percent, to $9.4 billion.

Equalized Values are calculated annually and used to ensure statewide fairness and equity in property tax distribution. The Equalized Value represents an estimate of a taxation district’s total taxable value, and provides for the fair apportionment of school district and county levies to each municipality. Changes in Equalized Value do not necessarily translate into a change in property taxes.

Governor Announces $10 Million Available to Help Contractors Access Capital

Governor Scott Walker announced $10 million is available to contractors through the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority’s (WHEDA) Contractors Loan Guarantee (CLG) program. WHEDA will partner with local lenders to guarantee 50 percent or up to $750,000 on new loans, helping contractors pay expenses for working on qualified contracts.

The CLG is designed to help address one of the biggest barriers for contractors bidding on construction projects – limited access to capital. WHEDA, along with its lending partners, will make access to capital quicker and more affordably through this program. The CLG helps reduce financial risk for the lender while ensuring that Wisconsin contractors have access to funding.

Program enhancements include:

  • Streamlined application – The loan approval process has been streamlined and simplified. WHEDA will be utilizing an eligibility checklist that will take approximately one week to approve.
  • Expanded eligibility – The CLG will now be open to general contractors and subcontractors who meet the eligibility criteria.
  • Reduced fees – The only fee will be 3% on the guaranteed amount of the loan at closing. There will no longer be an annual servicing fee.

Public Service Commission Issues Final Strategic Energy Assessment 2024

The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin has issued the final version of its biennial Strategic Energy Assessment (SEA). This is the 10th Strategic Energy Assessment issued by the Public Service Commission.

Every two years the Commission is charged with assessing Wisconsin’s energy demands, how those demands will be met, and the reliability of the electrical system in the upcoming years. The report includes data and information from Wisconsin utilities, power cooperatives, municipal electric companies, and other electricity and transmission providers.

This year’s SEA details residential customer energy consumption. Due to energy efficiency standards, Wisconsin’s median income family pays a similar percentage of their income each month towards energy use, when compared to other Midwest states. Additionally, Commission staff has undertaken goals to modernize our grid, and improve reliability across the state.

The SEA also documents Wisconsin’s diverse energy portfolio. Wisconsin utilities have already met their 10% renewable portfolio standards, and many have taken it upon themselves to expand programs that cut emissions and expand renewable energy sources.