Month: September 2019

White House Deliberates Block on U.S. Investments in China

The White House is weighing some curbs on U.S. investments in China, a source familiar with the matter told CNBC. This discussion includes possibly blocking all U.S. financial investments in Chinese companies, the source said.

It’s in the preliminary stages and nothing has been decided, the source said. There’s also no time frame for their implementation, the source added.

The deliberations come as the U.S. looks for additional levers of influence in trade talks, which resume on Oct. 10 in Washington. Both countries slapped tariffs on billions of dollars worth of each other’s goods. The discussions also come as the Chinese government is taking steps to increase foreign access to its markets.

Fiscal Bureau Analysis Shows GOP Cut Taxes by $13 billion Since 2011

A new analysis by the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau showed tax law changes that have been adopted since 2011 saved taxpayers more than $13 billion.

The memo of the analysis was released by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos Thursday. Vos received the analysis on Sept. 17. The more than $13.1 billion in tax cuts include:

    • More than $7.2 billion in income and franchise taxes, and economic development surcharges.
    • More than $131 million in other general fund taxes.
    • More than $5.7 billion in property taxes.

“One of our top priorities has been to allow Wisconsin families to keep more of their own hard-earned money,” said Speaker Robin Vos. “Republicans have proven we can cut taxes, fund essential state programs and grow the economy.”

According to Vos, the current budget grows the annual tax cuts to more than $2.3 billion, which includes reductions by more than $1.2 billion in income and franchise taxes and economic development surcharges, $18 million in other general fund taxes and $1.1 billion in property taxes.

U.S. and Japan Reach Trade Deal on Farm Goods, Digital Trade

The United States and Japan outlined initial details of a trade deal Wednesday as they to iron out a broader agreement.

The first stage of the accord will open markets up to about $7 billion in U.S. agricultural products, President Donald Trump said at a signing ceremony with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the United Nations. Japan will also reduce tariffs on products such as beef and pork, and eliminate tariffs on goods such as almonds, blueberries and broccoli.

President Trump added that the two nations made commitments for $40 billion worth of digital trade. It would bar customs duties on products such as videos, music and e-books, among other provisions.

In a joint statement later Wednesday, Japan and the U.S. said they wanted to finish their trade talks within about four months, according to Reuters. They said that, “while faithfully implementing these agreements, both nations will refrain from taking measures against the spirit of these agreements and this joint statement.”

U.S. Department of Labor Issues Final Overtime Rule

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Labor announced a final rule to make 1.3 million American workers eligible for overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

“For the first time in over 15 years, America’s workers will have an update to overtime regulations that will put overtime pay into the pockets of more than a million working Americans,” Acting U.S. Secretary of Labor Patrick Pizzella said. “This rule brings a commonsense approach that offers consistency and certainty for employers as well as clarity and prosperity for American workers.”

The final rule updates the earnings thresholds necessary to exempt executive, administrative, or professional employees from the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime pay requirements, and allows employers to count a portion of certain bonuses (and commissions) towards meeting the salary level.

In the final rule, the Department is:

  • raising the “standard salary level” from the currently enforced level of $455 to $684 per week (equivalent to $35,568 per year for a full-year worker);
  • raising the total annual compensation level for “highly compensated employees (HCE)” from the currently-enforced level of $100,000 to $107,432 per year;
  • allowing employers to use nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) that are paid at least annually to satisfy up to 10 percent of the standard salary level, in recognition of evolving pay practices; and
  • revising the special salary levels for workers in U.S. territories and in the motion picture industry.

The final rule will be effective on January 1, 2020.

The Department estimates that 1.2 million additional workers will be entitled to minimum wage and overtime pay as a result of the increase to the standard salary level. The Department also estimates that an additional 101,800 workers will be entitled to overtime pay as a result of the increase to the HCE compensation level.

Governor Evers Orders Special Election in 7th Congressional District

Yesterday, Governor Tony Evers ordered a special election to fill the 7th Congressional District vacancy created by the resignation of U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis).

The election will occur on Monday, January 27, 2020. A primary, if required, will occur on Monday, December 30, 2019.

State law dictates when the governor can order a special election. Once a congressional seat becomes vacant, the governor can order a special election.

Medical Marijuana Bill Faces Stiff Opposition in State Legislature

A bipartisan group of lawmakers wants to enact medical marijuana legislation, despite opposition from legislative leaders.

Democrat Senator John Erpenbach and Representative Chris Taylor, and Republican Senator Pat Testin are seeking to create a pathway for doctors to be able to prescribe marijuana to patients.

Testin says it’s a personal issue for him, after his grandfather used cannabis to treat his cancer symptoms. “I saw him make the decision to go outside the law to seek treatment with medical marijuana. It restored his appetite, and I believe it added months to his life. I am grateful for all the time that I had with him.”

“Each time we introduce this bill, more and more people around Wisconsin find that someone they know has turned to cannabis as a life-altering medical treatment,” said Senator Erpenbach. “The public support is there, we have a Governor who supports it, the time for medical cannabis is now.”

The bill will face stiff competition in the Senate, however. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald has been a staunch opponent to any form of marijuana legalization. “Everyone knows that medical marijuana leads to legalized marijuana,” he said in a statement to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“I don’t support this plan and I think that it’s going to be a tough sell to a majority of my caucus.”

Wisconsin Lost 1,400 Private Sector Jobs in August

Wisconsin lost 1,400 private sector jobs in August and the state’s year-over-year job growth declined to 0.32%, the worst performance since July 2010, according to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The state’s Department of Workforce Development released the monthly data on Thursday, highlighting that Wisconsin’s labor force participation rate remained unchanged in August at 67.2%.

“Along with the country’s, Wisconsin’s workforce is aging rapidly, with thousands retiring daily,” DWD Secretary-designee Caleb Frostman said. “To replace retiring workers, while also filling new positions, Wisconsin’s employers and workforce partners, very much including DWD, will need to continue their aggressive, creative, and inclusive workforce recruitment efforts.”

Compared to August 2018, the state’s labor force was down by around 6,000 people. The labor force participation rate has been trending down since mid-2017, dropping from 68.5% to 67.2%, a loss of more than 27,000 workers.

Wisconsin’s unemployment rate increased by a tenth of a percent to 3.1% in August.

WEDC Names Members of New Entrepreneurship and Innovation Committee

Lisa Mauer, the chair of the board of directors of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, has named 15 members to the new Entrepreneurship and Innovation Committee, which will meet later this month.

The WEDC board created the committee in response to a request from Governor Tony Evers earlier this year. The governor noted at the time that Wisconsin lags other states in small business creation. He said the committee would compliment WEDC’s existing programs to assist entrepreneurs.

The committee will be co-chaired by Joe Kirgues, co-founder of Milwaukee-based Gener8tor, and Rebecca Cooke, owner of Eau Claire-based Red’s Mercantile and founder of the Red Letter Grant. Both are also members of the WEDC Board of Directors.

Other committee members include:

  • Nancy Hernandez, of Milwaukee, founder and president of ABRAZO Marketing and president of the Hispanic Collaborative;
  • Fern Orie, of Lac du Flambeau, CEO of the Wisconsin Native Loan Fund and chair of the Wisconsin Indian Business Alliance;
  • Craig Dickman, of Green Bay, managing director of TitletownTech;
  • Jignesh M. Patel, of Madison, professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and CEO of DataChat;
  • Larry Evinger, of Beloit, chief investment officer with Hendricks Commercial Properties;
  • Eugenia Podestá, of Madison, co-founder of Synergy Co-Working and senior director of Vital Voices Global Partnership;
  • Erik Iverson, of Madison, CEO of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation;
  • Kelly Ryan, of Wisconsin Rapids, CEO of Incourage;
  • Zach Halmstad, of Eau Claire, partner at Pablo Group and co-founder of Jamf;
  • John W. Miller, of Milwaukee, founder and principal of Arenberg Holdings;
  • Sarah Lloyd, of Wisconsin Dells, director of special projects with the Wisconsin Farmers Union and dairy farmer at NelDell Farms LLC;
  • Carl Ruedebusch, of Madison, president and CEO of Ruedebusch Development & Construction Inc. and manager of N29 Capital Partners LLC; and
  • JoAnne Sabir, of Milwaukee, developer with Sherman Phoenix LLC.

Senate Majority Leader Announces Run for Congress

Yesterday, Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald announced his candidacy for Wisconsin’s Fifth Congressional District. Fitzgerald, a 25-year legislative veteran and longtime leader of the Senate Republican caucus, released the following statement:

“Washington is a mess. For too long, liberals and the elite have ignored the needs of working-class people. President Trump has made tremendous strides in fixing the D.C. dysfunction, but he needs more help. In Wisconsin, we know how to fix broken government and put taxpayers back in charge.

Congressman Sensenbrenner spent decades advocating for conservative ideals in Washington, D.C. The residents of the Fifth Congressional District deserve another strong conservative voice continuing to represent their interests in our nation’s capital. Today, I’m excited to announce my candidacy for Congress to be that conservative voice for Wisconsin’s Fifth.”

Fitzgerald is a longtime resident of Juneau, Wisconsin, where he owns a small horse farm with his wife, Lisa. A former Lieutenant Colonel in the Wisconsin Army Reserve, Fitzgerald served his country for 27 years, on top of his 25 years of public service in the Wisconsin Legislature. He is a former newspaper publisher and small business owner.

Governor Evers Creates Task Force on Retirement Security

Yesterday, Governor Tony Evers signed Executive Order #45 to address the growing crisis of retirement security in the State of Wisconsin. Wisconsin’s aging population is expected to increase by 60% by 2030, yet currently, one in seven registered voters in Wisconsin have no way to save for retirement at work.

“Hard-working Wisconsinites deserve to have peace of mind in retirement so they can enjoy those years with their friends and family, yet too many Wisconsinites are unprepared,” Gov. Evers said. “We need to make sure that the state is playing a proactive role in helping Wisconsinites get ahead in saving for their futures, so they can enjoy those years in financial security with their friends and family.”

The Governor’s Task Force on Retirement Security would be charged with the following:

  • Assess the overall preparedness of the state in supporting Wisconsinites’ ability to retire in a financially secure manner.
  • Evaluate the statewide financial impact of Wisconsin’s current retirement system, as well as employer-sponsored and individual retirement plans.
  • Identify challenges and obstacles facing Wisconsinites seeking to retire in a financially secure manner.
  • Identify barriers to accessing existing employer-sponsored and individual retirement plans, and to participation in public and private retirement options.
  • Research best practices from industry, academia, and other states on retirement security.
  • Provide guidance on the average amount a Wisconsinite should save to achieve a secure retirement.
  • Provide various recommendations on how best the state can address the retirement crisis, reduce regulatory and operational burden on small businesses who want to offer payroll deduction retirement savings options to employees, encourage younger Wisconsinites to save early in life, and innovate reforms to help Wisconsinites to retire in a financial secure manner.