Wisconsin economy grew at an annualized rate of 1.1% in the second quarter, among the 10 slowest growth rates of any state in the country, according to new date from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. The growth rate is unchanged from the first quarter.
Only one Midwestern state, Indiana, had a slower growth rate in the quarter at 1%. Three other states, Illinois, Iowa and Michigan, had growth rates of 1.1%. Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota and Missouri all topped 2%, led by Nebraska at 2.4%.
Manufacturing, the state’s largest sector by GDP, saw a slowdown from 2.1% to a 0.4% growth rate. The slowdown was primarily driven by durable goods manufacturing, which dipped from 5.9% to 0.6% and contributed 0.07 percentage points to overall growth.
The major contributors to growth included agriculture, accounting for 0.32 percentage points, utilities, a 0.27 point boost, and management of companies, a 0.26 contributor.
The state Senate has approved a bill to end by next summer the sales tax that funded construction of Miller Park. The 0.1 percent sales tax has been in effect in Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington, Waukesha and Racine counties since 1996.
Under current law, the tax would end when the stadium district has paid off its bonds and satisfied reserve requirements. The district is expected to reach that point by early 2020. The bill would require the tax end by August 31, 2020.
Any excess collections would go back to the counties for property tax relief, public safety, parks and recreation or economic development.
The Senate passed the bill 33-0 Tuesday. The Assembly passed it in June. It goes to Gov. Tony Evers next to sign.
With Gov. Tony Evers seated in the chamber, Wisconsin Republican Senators on Tuesday voted against Brad Pfaff in his confirmation hearing to officially become the secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. In a vote of 14 to 19, the Senate denied the DATCP secretary-designee after two hours of debate on the floor.
Throughout the hearing, Democrats blasted GOP colleagues saying Pfaff is among the state’s most qualified people to lead the agriculture department and that his only fault was disagreeing with Republican leadership last summer when he spoke up over funding mental health programs that were already approved in the state budget.
“Ag is in his DNA. The agricultural industry shaped his life and shaped his values,” said Sen. Jennifer Schilling. “Brad Pfaff is undeniably qualified for this job.”
Sen. Dave Hansen agreed, saying Pfaff spent his whole adult life helping farmers succeed.
“I think the people in that committee that day tells it all. They know he’s a smart and dedicated public servant for our rural community,” Hansen said. “Our industry is in crisis but it started a long time before Secretary-designee Pfaff took office. There is no evidence that he is disqualified from serving. This is all about our senators trying to score political points.”
But Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald fired back, saying there has been a number of missteps during Pfaff’s tenure at DATCP to cause some lawmakers to reconsider their support.
“I can continue to make the case that that this person deserves it or this person does not. But there’s a whole slew of things, such as the ATCP 51 policy that people can bring forth as a reason to deny this confirmation,” Fitzgerald said. “You have to be comfortable when confirming appointees… and there are a number of senators who do not feel comfortable.”
Tuesday’s vote means Pfaff is now dismissed from his duties at DATCP headquarters in Madison. Gov. Evers will now need to nominate a new person to lead the department.
President Trump on Monday began the yearlong process of withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate accord. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the move in a statement.
“President Trump made the decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement because of the unfair economic burden imposed on American workers, businesses, and taxpayers by U.S. pledges made under the Agreement,” Pompeo said. “The United States has reduced all types of emissions, even as we grow our economy and ensure our citizens’ access to affordable energy.”
The landmark 2015 agreement signed by former President Obama requires the U.S. to reduce emissions about 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. The agreement allowed the U.S. to begin the process to withdraw on Monday and finalize the U.S. exit from the agreement on November 4, 2020.
On Friday, state and local officials and stakeholders, announced the launch of open enrollment for the health insurance market. Open enrollment runs from November 1 to December 15 for individuals purchasing health insurance on the individual market.
Wisconsin residents should visit GetCovered.WI.gov to learn about their health insurance options or they can receive free help signing up for health insurance by calling or texting 2-1-1 to get connected with a local enrollment expert.
“There are more insurance options today than in the last few years,” said Insurance Commissioner Afable. “We’re encouraging everyone who has considered the marketplace in the past to take another look. You might find a better plan to fit your needs with different coverage options or even lower rates.”
There are also more than 200,000 Wisconsin residents currently insured by high-quality plans through HealthCare.gov. Open enrollment is the opportunity for them to shop around to make sure they are getting the best coverage to meet their needs.
Wisconsin insurance rates for 2020 are 3.2 percent lower on a weighted average than 2019 rates and there are also more options for insurance plans on the individual market than in previous years.
Seventy-seven percent of Wisconsin small business owners are supportive of a retirement savings program that would help employees save for retirement at their jobs, according to a new poll released by AARP today. Nearly half of small business owners expressed concern about their employees having enough money saved for retirement.
“Wisconsinites are working as hard as ever, but many do not have a way to save for retirement out of their regular paycheck,” said Lisa Lamkins, Advocacy Director at AARP Wisconsin. “The results of this survey show that small business owners agree legislators should support a Wisconsin retirement savings option to help make businesses in the Badger state more competitive and to give more Wisconsin residents an easy way to save for their retirement.”
Among the survey’s other key findings:
• 70 percent of small business owners think that more should be done to encourage Wisconsin residents to save for retirement.
• 80 percent agree that retirement savings options help small businesses attract employees and stay competitive.
• 85 percent of respondents agree Wisconsin lawmakers should support a Wisconsin retirement savings option.
For more findings from the AARP poll, visit www.aarp.org/WIsmallbizsavings.
With the 2020 U.S. census only a few months away, government officials are rallying together to encourage Wisconsinites to fill out the proper paperwork. The deadline to respond to the U.S. Census Bureau’s survey is April 1.
Gov. Tony Evers joined Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, Rep. David Crowley, D-Milwaukee, and U.S. Census Bureau regional director Marilyn Sanders on Monday at Journey House in Milwaukee to begin working on counting as many Milwaukee households as possible.
“At the end of the day the census is not just a head count,” Evers said. “It’s about visibility, voice and values.”
According to Evers, in 2010, Wisconsin had one of the highest census participation rates in the country. During Monday’s press conference, Evers signed an executive order creating Wisconsin’s Complete Count Committee to help make sure every Wisconsin resident is counted next year.
The Wisconsin Complete Count Committee will work to educate residents on the importance of the census and help reach hard-to-count communities such as low-income residents, people with disabilities, communities of color, communities with children under age 5, as well as reaching out to the department of corrections and parole officers.
The committee will also recommend and coordinate specific roles for state agencies to ensure an accurate and complete count in the 2020 census. The committee with also coordinate efforts and resources through the U.S. Census Bureau and other local complete count committees.
An accurate count of residents ensures continued federal support and fair elections in the future. Census data also impacts how much federal funding states get for education, Medicare, food stamps and transportation.