Month: October 2017

DWD Rolls Out Additional Features to WisConnect Internship Website

Department of Workforce Development (DWD) Secretary Ray Allen today announced the launch of enhanced features on WisConnect, the state’s premier source for internships available at He invited all college students and Wisconsin employers to register today and develop profiles on the free, mobile-responsive site.

“Hundreds of college students and employers have already started to use WisConnect since we launched this new site during the summer, and we look forward to even more activity as peak internship recruitment season approaches,” Secretary Allen said. “The cutting-edge tools we are rolling out today will help match student talent with internship opportunities, and provide more tools to support the important work of our college and university career counseling partners.”

DWD launched WisConnect over three months ago to help employers meet their workforce needs by growing tomorrow’s talent today through internships. With studies showing the value of internships in attracting, training and retaining college students during and after graduation, WisConnect serves as an important tool to support a robust talent pipeline in Wisconsin.

Highlights of added features for students and employers include:

  • Enhanced logic to support stronger and more targeted matches between students and employers
  • Tools for students and employers to search opportunities or candidates by metro area
  • Ability for employers to select multiple industry types for their profile
  • Functionality for employers to search students by specific unviersity or technical college
  • Ability for students to search internship opportunities by company, job type, desired major and industry
  • Additional custom features such as flagging postings or student profiles for quick retrieval.


Small Fish May Stand In Way Of Big Economic Development

The Fox River Locks system dates back to the 1850s and is thought to be one of Wisconsin’s first infrastructure projects.

The locks were created as a 19th century form of the modern interstate system, helping move goods from Wisconsin to the Great Lakes and beyond. The locks also gave residents and tourists access to the riverfront. But all of that economic boon may be in jeopardy because of a 6 and a half inch fish called the round goby.

There are 17 locks on Wisconsin’s Fox River between the Oshkosh area and Green Bay.

In 2015, the lock in Menasha was closed to keep the invasive round goby at bay and out of Lake Winnebago and the Wolf River watersheds. Another barrier at Rapide Croche will most likely be closed to help stop the spread of the fish. Tentative plans to keep the Rapide Croche open include building a boat transfer and washing station to ensure no gobies make it between locks.

While these measures help minimize the spread of the invasive species — that competes with native fresh water species for food — they may have a negative impact on economic development along the Fox River.

David Fuller, a University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh economics professor, crunched the numbers and found restorations of various locks between 2005 and 2015 created more than $64 million in economic development, while the restorations only cost $14.5 million.

In that time, he said, hotels, apartments and small shops sprung up along the Fox River.

“I’m not arguing the locks are the sole reason that happened,” Fuller said.

Instead, he thinks opening the locks may have played some role in bringing more people to the riverfront.

“The usability of the river and surrounding area, it is going to generate economic activity,” said Fuller. “That’s driving most of the results I’m getting.”


Private-Sector Jobs in Wisconsin at Record High

National jobs numbers took a hit in September, but estimates show Wisconsin with a record number of private-sector jobs. That may be because Wisconsin didn’t have to contend with a hurricane.

But Wisconsin saw an increase of 8,600 jobs, according to preliminary estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released Friday. The figures are part of the Current Employment Statistics program, which samples a small number of employers monthly. As preliminary estimates for September, the numbers are subject to revision.

That 8,600 increase is broken down into 5,900 private-sector jobs and 2,700 government jobs. Estimates show an increase of 1,200 construction jobs and over 5,000 additional jobs in the trade, transportation and utilities sector.

Altogether, the total number of estimated private-sector jobs in Wisconsin is 2,543,200, the highest it’s ever been.

Meanwhile, the state’s unemployment rate, which reached the impressive low of 3.1 percent earlier this year, has been slowly but steadily rising over the past few months. The estimated unemployment rate for September is 3.5 percent, still lower than the national rate of 4.2 percent.

Governor Announces Rhinelander as New Headquarters of DNR Forestry Division

In an event at Rhinelander’s DNR Ranger Station, Walker said it makes sense to move the headquarters closer to state forests and Wisconsin’s forest products industry.

The state selected Rhinelander after a process that started in 2015. About 40 places in Wisconsin expressed interest in becoming the new home of the forestry division. Forestry becomes the only one of the DNR’s five divisions based out of somewhere other than Madison.

“When you just look at the forest products system, so much of it is dependent on people who are either working or located here in the northern part of the state of Wisconsin, so it just makes good sense for us,” Walker said.

DNR Chief State Forester Fred Souba will move his office to Rhinelander by December 1. The rest of the leadership team will be in place by January 1, and more workers will come to the city throughout 2018.

“By having the leadership team and the forestry headquarters here, it allows us to have greater interaction and engagement to serve and support the forest industry and forestry stakeholders here in northern Wisconsin,” Souba said.

Out of about 450 employees working in the division of forestry statewide, more than 50 work in Madison. Souba couldn’t say whether the majority would eventually move to Rhinelander.

Last year, members of the state Natural Resources Board raised objections to moving the forestry headquarters, citing high cost. A state estimate found that construction a new headquarters building in Wausau, for example, would cost millions.

But Walker said the cost will be relatively low, as employees will work out of the existing Rhinelander DNR Service Center on Sutliff Avenue. “We’re not looking at a major new construction. We’re looking at using existing site space here as a way to accommodate them,” Walker said.


Shorter Enrollment Period Set this Year for ACA

There’s one web address which many Americans will be typing in, starting next week – HealthCare.Gov – as open enrollment begins November 1st for people to sign up for coverage. It will run until December 15, as opposed to the end of January as in previous years.

With a shorter window of opportunity to sign up this year, those at the local level are stepping up to help out.

“If people do not enroll between November 1st and December 15th, that door closes,” Lieske Giese, director of the Eau Claire City-County Health Department. “Our strong encouragement is that people sign up for ACA that are needing health insurance.”

During open enrollment in 2016, more than 3,916 people in Eau Claire County selected a plan on the Affordable Care Act marketplace, but Giese says it’s not just for the poor or people not eligible through an employer.

“Often, people that are on ACA are using that resource, because they’re not eligible for an employer-sponsored health insurance or they’re not in a low enough income bracket to be eligible for, in Wisconsin, Medicaid or BadgerCare,” she said. “There is a middle group of people who may be self-employed, who may be farmers, who may be at an employment situation where they don’t offer health insurance that really need it.”

According to the UW Population Health Institute, more than 220,000 Wisconsinites last year put the Affordable Care Act to work for them. But, no matter how people in the state get their health coverage taken care of, getting it taken care of isn’t always easy.


More Lawsuits Won’t Change the Fate of Clean Power Plan

Several state attorneys general have announced they will sue to block the Environmental Protection Agency’s rollback of President Barack Obama’s signature Clean Power Plan. Can they win? And should they? The answer to both questions is no, but not because of anything inherently wrong with the plan to cut greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants. Although administrative decisions must be rational, they are permitted to reflect the president’s political priorities and beliefs.

The Clean Power Plan has been enmeshed in litigation from the start. After it was promulgated by Obama’s EPA, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked it from going into operation. The order came on Feb. 9, 2016. The four liberal justices voted against it. The five conservatives voted in favor — less than a week before Justice Antonin Scalia’s death. The order blocking the plan was a big deal, legally speaking. Never before had the Supreme Court frozen a regulation before the courts of appeals had had the chance to weigh in on its legality. And the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which was going to review the regulation, had refused a similar stay.

The conservative justices were sending an unusually strong signal that they sided with the 29 states and industry groups that were challenging the plan as exceeding the EPA’s authority. As a consequence, the Clean Power Plan didn’t go into effect.

To attack the rollback, Democratic attorneys general will have to argue that the decision to reverse the earlier regulation was irrational — “arbitrary and capricious,” under the language of the Administrative Procedure Act.

As a matter of law, regulatory rollback is treated the same as the initial promulgation of a regulation. That means the government must articulate a rational reason for its decision-making. In the case of the Clean Power Plan rollback, the government’s main argument will apparently be that the original plan was itself unlawful because it exceeded the EPA’s authority to regulate emissions under Section 111(D) of the Clean Air Act.

Technically, the issue is whether the “best system of emission reduction” that the EPA is empowered to impose must relate only to the specific technology used to regulate emissions at a single power plant or “source.” The Clean Power Plan imposed broader limits on emissions that would likely have required not just improvements in emissions technology but also reduction of coal use to meet emissions targets.

But the Trump administration is entitled to offer its own interpretation of the statute that differs from Obama’s. And since Scott Pruitt as attorney general of Oklahoma was one of the leading critics of the plan, it’s not surprising that the EPA under his leadership has adopted his view of the law.

Agencies like the EPA are part of the executive branch. The election of a president is, in no small part, a referendum on the regulatory policies that the public would like to see enacted.

Top Senate Republican, White House, Aim for Tax Bill by Year-End

The top U.S. Senate Republican and the White House budget director said on Sunday they hoped for action on a Republican tax reform package by the end of the year, while keeping their options open on how to pay for sweeping tax cuts.

President Donald Trump’s plan promises up to $6 trillion in tax cuts, but would increase the deficit by $1.5 trillion over the next decade. Democrats have criticized the package as a giveaway to the rich and corporations that would balloon the deficit.

Republicans, who control both the Senate and House of Representatives, have yet to produce a bill as their self-imposed deadline to overhaul the U.S. tax code by the end of 2017 approaches. The party’s lawmakers differ widely on what cuts to make and how to pay for them.

Trump participated in a conference call with House Republican lawmakers on Sunday where tax reform was discussed, a White House official said.

The president was also expected to travel to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to participate in Senate Republicans’ weekly policy lunch, with the tax package high on the agenda.

Wisconsin’s Bond Rating Upgraded to AA+ by Fitch Ratings

Governor Scott Walker announced that Fitch Ratings upgraded Wisconsin’s bond rating to “AA+” from “AA.” The announcement comes on the heels of news that Kroll Bond Rating Agency also upgraded the state’s bond rating to “AA+.”

“This is now the second agency in as many days to upgrade Wisconsin’s outlook, and it shows our reforms are working for Wisconsin,” Governor Walker said. “We proved you can budget responsibly and make strong investments in priorities like education and infrastructure while holding the line on taxes.”

The following is an excerpt from the Fitch Ratings report:

“The state’s fiscal performance was historically challenged by structural imbalances and a reliance on one-time resources to cover budgetary needs. The fiscal 2011-2013 budget marked a turning point, with extensive structural budget actions and the resolution of several lingering fiscal challenges.”

Opioid Deaths Increase 300% During 15-Year Span in Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has released data on opioid death and injury.

The study shows drug overdose deaths in Wisconsin increased 300 percent during a 15-year period; there were 246 deaths in 2000 compared to 1,031 deaths in 2016.

“This information can be used by anyone seeking to better understand the scope of Wisconsin’s opioid epidemic and develop strategies for combating opioid misuse and deaths,” stated State Health Officer Karen McKeown in a news release.

Statewide during that time span, more than half of the drug overdose deaths involved prescription opioids. The total number of deaths due to prescription opioids increased 600 percent, from 81 cases in 2000 to 568 in 2016. While death from heroin overdose accounted for 36 percent of all drug overdose deaths, heroin overdose deaths increased 12 times, from 28 deaths in 2000 to 371 deaths in 2016.

Governor Scott Walker created the Task Force on Opioid Abuse in 2016 to address the state’s opioid overdose epidemic.

WEDC Delays Vote on Foxconn Contract

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) delayed a vote on a nearly $3 billion incentive package for Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn until November after an unspecified problem was discovered with the deal board members were set to vote on Tuesday.

WEDC board chairwoman Lisa Mauer confirmed the vote was pushed back because of a particular concern but also declined to provide specifics. She said it was detected late in the negotiating process. “We want to get this right,” Mauer said. “When something goes awry, you step back and you address that specific issue, and that is what’s going to happen.”

Foxconn has pledged to invest $10 billion and create up to 13,000 jobs at a new LCD manufacturing facility in Mount Pleasant in Racine County. In return the state plans to give the company $2.85 billion in refundable tax credits for jobs and for the construction of the campus.

WEDC CEO Mark Hogan declined to discuss details of where the negotiation stands. “We’re going to take whatever time is required to get it right,” Hogan said. “It’s very complex.”

Hogan said the delay in voting on a contract is not an indication the company is having second thoughts about locating in the state. “I think you’ve seen that Foxconn has been very visible in the community in recent weeks and I think that they’re committed to it,” Hogan said. “They’re moving forward as if this transaction is going to take place.”