Month: April 2018

Democratic Gubernatorial Candidates Offer Varied Tax Proposals

The Democrats running for governor this year have several ideas for how to rewrite the state’s tax laws, with an emphasis on higher taxes for the rich, and lower taxes for the working and middle class. They largely support more state revenues to pay for things like better roads and schools, expansion of BadgerCare and free technical college tuition.

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin wants to lower homeowner property taxes statewide by up to 25 percent while raising income taxes on the top 3 percent of earners.

Former Wisconsin Democracy Campaign executive director Mike McCabe is calling for a reduction in the sales tax from 5 percent to 4.5 percent, and also applying it to currently exempt goods and services such as airplane parts, health club fees and professional services.

Former Rep. Kelda Roys would repeal a recently adopted fee on hybrid and electric vehicles, but would be willing to slap a new fee on certain heavy trucks to help pay for road repairs.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers and four other top Democratic candidates want to eliminate the manufacturing and agriculture tax credit, noting 93 percent of the benefit goes to taxpayers who make more than $250,000 a year.

Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, wants to reduce the manufacturing credit and preserve the credit for farmers. Rep. Dana Wachs, D-Eau Claire, and Milwaukee businessman Andy Gronik said they want to restructure the credit and tie it to actual job creation. Soglin was the only candidate who said he wouldn’t make any changes to the credit.



Wisconsin and Texas File 20-State Injunction Against Obamacare

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a motion yesterday seeking a preliminary injunction against the federal government’s Affordable Care Act. Attorneys General Schimel and Paxton are leading a 20-state coalition in this effort to undo the harmful effects of Obamacare.

“Obamacare’s irrational design wreaks havoc on health insurance markets,” said Attorney General Schimel. “Obamacare causes premiums to rise and coverage to fall, forcing Wisconsin and other states to take extreme, costly measures to protect their citizens’ health and pocketbooks. I bring this challenge to Obamacare because, as Wisconsin’s attorney general, I swore to uphold the rule of law and protect our state from overreaching and harmful actions from the federal government.”

In February, the same 20-state coalition filed a lawsuit that argues the ACA, as recently amended, forces an unconstitutional and irrational regime onto the states and their citizens. In NFIB v. Sebelius, the U.S. Supreme Court narrowly upheld the core provision of the ACA—the individual mandate—as a “tax.” However, Congress has recently repealed this tax, while leaving the mandate in place. Since the Supreme Court has already held that Congress has no authority to impose such a mandate on Americans, absent invoking its taxing authority, the ACA is now unconstitutional.

In the motion for a preliminary injunction that was filed today, Attorney General Schimel told the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas that an injunction against Obamacare is necessary to spare the people of Wisconsin and the other states from the enormous financial burden caused by the individual mandate. Before Obamacare, “the states allowed individuals to determine whether to buy health insurance, established high-risk insurance pools to help individuals in ill-health, enabled cost-sharing, and instituted many other policies that Obamacare now preempts or functionally preempts,” the coalition wrote.

Wisconsin and Texas filed the coalition’s complaint in a federal district court in Texas. Other states participating are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia.


Foxconn Says Wisconsin Companies Win Construction Work

A Foxconn executive says that groundbreaking for the company’s new factory in Racine County is taking place soon, and that nearly all the construction companies chosen to build the first phase of the complex are based in Wisconsin.

Foxconn special assistant Louis Woo took part in a business panel in Milwaukee on Wednesday,  prior to a visit by Vice President Mike Pence. Woo said that he has peeked at which construction firms have won work for the facility, and that 90 percent are from Wisconsin.

“Do not tell the folks at Racine County because only 10 percent of the companies are from that county. That means the rest of the 90 percent of the companies are all over the state of Wisconsin,” Woo said.

Woo also said that about 10 percent of the companies are run by women, minorities or veterans. He said the winners will be notified in the next couple of days.

Tariffs Could Increase Harley Raw Material Costs by $20 Million this Year

Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson Inc. was already expecting an increase in raw material costs this year, but new tariffs on steel and aluminum announced by President Donald Trump could add another $15 million to $20 million in additional costs, John Olin, Harley chief financial officer said Tuesday.

That’s going to provide quite a headwind for the company,” Olin said.

He cautioned the figure is an estimate based on what prices have done since the tariffs – 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum – were announced in February. Olin added that Harley saw a $4.2 million increase in raw material costs in the first quarter that was not the result of tariffs.

When the tariffs were first announced, Harley warned there could be “significant impact” from retaliatory tariffs and said in a statement the measures would drive up costs. Heavyweight motorcycles like Harley’s were among the products the European Union said could be hit with tariffs if Trump goes through with his plans.


‘Dark Sky’ Training Exercise to Simulate Mass Power Outage in Wisconsin

A training exercise meant to simulate a mass power outage will take place next month at sites across Wisconsin.

The exercise, known as Dark Sky, is scheduled to happen May 15-17 in Brown, Calumet, Dane, Fond du Lac, Milwaukee, Outagamie and Winnebago counties. The public should not be concerned by a greater presence of emergency responders, military personnel or drones during the exercise.

The exercise is intended to test the abilities of emergency responders and private utilities to respond to a long-term power outage across the state. The exercise will involve an Alliant Energy facility in Fond du Lac County that will serve as a National Guard training site.

“Our emergency management community must be prepared to deal with the myriad of scenarios and challenges posed by a long-term mass power outage,” said Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar, Wisconsin’s adjutant general. “By training together, we continue building meaningful relationships that leave us better positioned to respond to a real-world situation.”

More than 1,000 people from federal, state, county and municipal agencies will participate in the training exercise.

DATCP: Watch out for Fake AT and T Customer Service Calls

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) has received a number of recent contacts from Wisconsin consumers about a robocall imposter scam that claims to come from AT&T.

The calls have been spoofed to show AT&T’s actual customer service phone number on recipients’ caller ID displays. The automated message in the calls warns recipients of an issue with their internet service related to a security breach. Call recipients are asked to press a button in order to speak to a representative about the situation.

Regardless of what your caller ID says, these calls are not from AT&T and are not legitimate. If you receive a similar call, hang up immediately and do not press any buttons. If you do press a button to speak with a “representative,” your number will likely be added to a future call list and you may be pressed for money or personal information from a scammer.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding your AT&T service, contact the company directly by using the contact information listed on your monthly billing statement.

To read more about imposter scams, review DATCP’s imposter scams fact sheet.

For additional information on consumer protection issues, visit the Consumer Protection Bureau at, send an e-mail to or call the Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-422-7128.

Wisconsin’s Medical Malpractice Cap Goes Before State Supreme Court

Wisconsin’s cap on damages for pain and suffering is being challenged as unconstitutional. The state Supreme Court heard oral arguments Thursday in a medical malpractice case involving a woman who lost both her arms and legs.

In 2014, Ascaris Mayo was awarded a total of $25.3 million, $16.5 million of which was for non-economic damages, which Wisconsin caps at $750,000. Her attorney Daniel Rottier says the cap violates the state constitution’s equal protection clause because it hurts patients with the worst injuries the most — they are limited in what they can recover, no matter what a jury decides.

Kevin St. John, an attorney for the Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund, disagreed. “Now a plaintiffs’ primary argument at the end of the day boils down to fairness. But ‘it’s not fair’ is not a constitutional argument,'” St. John told the state’s high court Thursday.

Proponents of the medical malpractice cap say it helps attract doctors to the state, curbs defensive medicine and protects a fund worth $1.4 billion used to compensate patients.

“The Legislature will always have a rationale for everything it does, that does not means its rational,” Rottier said. “And those reasons have to be examined in a meaningful way.”

Those arguing in favor of the cap told the court it’s “critical” to not only uphold the cap, but to make sure the cap has no exceptions based on an individual case.

“Now judicial second-guessing of the cap-specific level, as (a previous case, Ferdon v. Wisconsin Patients Compensation Fund) authorizes, places courts in the impossible position of making legislative, not judicial, judgments,” argued state Solicitor General Misha Tseytlin.


Governor Walker Seeks Federal Waiver for Reinsurance Program

Gov. Scott Walker’s administration filed a request with the federal government seeking a waiver that would allow Wisconsin to offer a $200 million reinsurance program designed to lower premiums and attract more providers to the private marketplace.

Walker said he was confident President Donald Trump’s administration would grant the waiver this summer.  “We feel very, very positive about our ability to get an approval and do so on a timely basis,” he said.

Under the reinsurance program, the government would provide money to health insurance providers to pay about 50 percent of medical claims costing between $50,000 and $200,000 starting in 2019. Deputy Wisconsin insurance commissioner J.P. Wieske said insurance providers will be required to file reports showing what rates would have been without the program so the savings could be calculated.

Rates are at least 20 percent lower this year in Alaska and Minnesota, and about 7 percent less in Oregon, the only three states with a reinsurance program. There was also a reinsurance program under the federal health care law for its first three years.

Walker originally said the state’s share under the 5-year program would be $50 million annually with the federal government picking up $150 million. But he said Wednesday the state’s share, to be taken from unspecified Medicaid savings, would actually be $34 million a year with the federal government paying the rest.

There were 227,000 people enrolled in an ACA plan through the private marketplace in Wisconsin in 2017, but that dropped to just over 202,000 this year. The decrease came at the same time premiums increased 44 percent from an average of $520 to $751 a month. They are projected to drop to $710 next year with the reinsurance program

Governor Signs Child Tax Rebate, Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday into Law

Yesterday, Governor Walker signed Wisconsin’s $100-per-child tax rebate and August sales tax holiday into law.

The bill creates a $100-per-child tax rebate for every dependent child living at home under the age of 18 as of December 31, 2017, and an August back-to-school sales tax holiday on school-related items. Governor Walker issued a partial veto to the legislation which expands the duration of the sales tax holiday from two days in August to five days in August, August 1 – 5, 2018.

Anyone who is a resident of the State of Wisconsin is eligible to receive $100 for every dependent child living at home under the age of 18 as of December 31, 2017. Beginning May 15, 2018, through July 2, 2018, eligible citizens can claim their $100-per-child tax rebate on a Department of Revenue website that will be announced prior to May 15.

Please note claims cannot be submitted prior to May 15. Those who claim the rebate will receive the money before school starts this fall and have the option to receive it through a check in the mail or direct deposit.


‘Tax Freedom’ Arrives Earlier

“Tax Freedom Day,” the day on which taxpayers have earned enough money to pay their total tax bill for the year, arrives on Thursday (April 19) for Badger State taxpayers, according to the Tax Foundation. Tax Freedom Day takes all federal, state, and local taxes and divides them by the nation’s income.

Last year, Wisconsin taxpayers didn’t break their government obligation chains until April 27, according to the Tax Foundation’s calculations. New York’s tax burden is the heaviest; the Empire State’s Tax Freedom Day arrives on May 14. Residents of Alaska and Louisiana tied for the earliest Tax Freedom Day, April 4.

National Tax Freedom Day also is Thursday, three days earlier than last year. The tax burden easing is thanks in large part to last year’s tax reform package pushed by President Trump and passed by the Republican-controlled congress.

Wisconsin taxpayers have seen an easing of their tax burden over the past seven-plus years. Gov. Scott Walker, backed by the Republican-controlled Legislature, has delivered north of $8 billion in tax cuts. The state’s property tax burden has declined by nearly 20 percent, according to economist Stephen Moore. And Walker has led several rounds of income tax cuts, although the state’s progressive tax system continues to diminish some of its tax relief gains.

Still, Wisconsin is faring better than some of its Midwest neighbors. Illinois and its massive public pension debt won’t celebrate Tax Freedom Day until April 29. Minnesota taxpayers are free, so to speak, on April 27, while the day arrives on April 24 in Michigan. Tax Freedom Day is April 18 in Iowa and April 10 in Indiana.