News of the Day

Governor Evers Establishes Climate Change Task Force

Gov. Tony Evers, along with Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, today signed Executive Order #52, establishing the Governor’s Task Force on Climate Change at the Urban Ecology Center’s Riverside Park location in Milwaukee.

“For too long we’ve been ignoring science, and frankly, we can’t afford to do it any longer. It’s time for us to deliver on the promise to our kids that we’re leaving them a better life and world than the one we inherited,” Gov. Evers said. “I am confident that this task force will find meaningful sustainable solutions to the climate crisis to carry our state into the future.”

The Task Force on Climate Change will advise and assist the governor in developing a strategy to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change for the benefit of all Wisconsin communities. Members of the task force will work closely with the Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy, created through Executive Order #38. The task force will report their findings and policy recommendations to Governor Evers by August 2020.

Governor Evers has appointed Lieutenant Governor Barnes to serve as chairman of the task force, who noted communities of color and low-income communities experience the first and worst consequences of climate change.

“All of Wisconsin can prosper in transitioning to a just and equitable clean economy,” Lt. Gov. Barnes said. “I’m eager to work alongside a number of brilliant and diverse individuals from across the state on this task force being created by Governor Evers, and I’m proud he’s given me the opportunity to lead it.”

Wisconsin Supreme Court to Hear Challenge to Scope of Governor’s Veto Authority

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has agreed to take up a challenge brought by a conservative firm that aims to scale back the governor’s veto powers.

Filed over the summer on behalf of three Wisconsin taxpayers, the suit calls on the court to determine whether the governor may veto portions of a budget bill that are “essential, integral, and interdependent parts of those which were approved.”

The court on Wednesday decided to take the case directly, rather than directing the group to first go through the lower courts, a decision WILL President and General Counsel Rick Esenberg praised in a statement.

“The people of Wisconsin never intended the check on legislative power the Governor’s veto represents to permit the Governor to legislate on his own,” said Esenberg, who’s representing the three Wisconsin taxpayers in the case. “We are pleased the Court agreed that Governor Evers’ recent use of the partial veto warrants judicial review.”

Wisconsin governors hold the country’s most powerful partial veto authority on spending measures, but aren’t able to use the veto pen to create new words by striking out individual letters, and they can’t craft new sentences by combining parts of two or more lines in legislation. Both limitations were imposed after voters approved previous constitutional amendments to limit governors’ authority in that arena.

 

Committee Hears Arguments on Constitutional Amendment Limiting Governor’s Veto Power

In an hour-long hearing Tuesday, the state Senate’s Government Oversight Committee heard arguments for and against a constitutional amendment that would curb the governor’s veto power.

Constitutional amendments must pass consecutive legislative sessions and then be approved by a statewide referendum before they are ratified.

Governor Evers used partial veto powers in July to rewrite the state budget and allocate $65 million more to public schools than was proposed in the budget.

Joint Resolution 59 is one of several attempts made by legislators to curb the governor’s veto power, Craig notes. If passed, it would create a new section (10 (1) (d)) of article V of the state constitution “prohibiting the governor from using the partial veto to increase state expenditures.”

JR 59 “would shield taxpayers from further unauthorized spending in the future,” Craig said.

Two Democrats on the committee, Sens. Fred Risser and Lena Taylor, spoke against the amendment, arguing it wasn’t necessary.

Federal Funds Hover at a Third of State Revenue

Federal dollars remained the second-largest source of states’ revenue in fiscal 2017, accounting for about $639 billion, or about a third of the $1.97 trillion collected by state governments. Tax collections are states’ leading revenue generator and reached $943 billion in fiscal 2017, or nearly half of state revenue.

According to new research from The Pew Charitable Trusts, 26.3% of the state’s budget came from federal dollars, ranking Wisconsin 45th among states in its ability to harness dollars from Uncle Sam.

Wisconsin has consistently ranked in the bottom half of states with regard to the share of federal dollars it receives, due in part to its middle ranking in household income compared to other states. The amount of federal spending in a given state depends on several factors, including demography, industry mix and presence of major universities.

 

 

U.S and China Reach Phase One Trade Agreement

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin expressed optimism Monday that the U.S. and China have a workable first-phase agreement that addresses some key elements of the trade war between the two nations.

“We made substantial progress last week in the negotiations,” Mnuchin said during an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “We have a fundamental agreement that is subject to documentation.”

Among the key points he said that were addressed during the most recent round of talks were intellectual property rights, financial services including currency and foreign exchange, and “very significant structural issues” dealing with agriculture, a key sticking point in the tit-for-tat tariff battle.

​Governor Announces More Health Insurance Options for Wisconsinites in 2020

Governor Tony Evers and the Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance announced today that many Wisconsin consumers will have more options for health insurance on the individual market in 2020.

“Every Wisconsinite should have access to affordable health insurance coverage that fits their needs,” said Gov. Evers. “Now, more than ever, Wisconsinites will have the chance to find the right plan for them, including those plans available on Healthcare.gov. Open enrollment starts on November 1. Now is the perfect time for folks to look at what coverage they have and make sure it is the best fit for them.”

In 2020, 61 counties will be served by three or more insurers compared to only 46 counties with three or more insurers in 2018. Counties that saw an expansion of insurers include:

  • Ashland, Chippewa, Langlade, Lincoln, Marathon, Oneida, and Portage counties, which went from two insurers to three insurers;
  • Jefferson, Green Lake, Sheboygan, Walworth, Waupaca, and Waushara counties, which went from three to four insurers;
  • Calumet, Fond Du Lac, Kenosha, Milwaukee, and Racine counties, which went from four to five insurers;
  • Kewaunee, Manitowoc, and Winnebago counties, which went from three to five insurers;
  • Dodge, Door, and Oconto counties, which went from four to six insurers; and
  • Brown County, which went from five to six insurers.

An interactive map of health insurers available by county can be found here.

Many Wisconsinites will also benefit from lower rates in 2020. Rates on the individual market, which include plans available on Healthcare.gov, will be 3.2 percent lower in 2020 on a weighted average than rates in 2019. The Wisconsin Healthcare Stability Plan (WIHSP), which Gov. Evers fully funded in his 2019-2021 state biennial budget, has helped stabilize the health insurance marketplace in Wisconsin, leading to more options for consumers and lower rates.

UW Dairy Innovation Hub Seeks Solutions to Challenges Facing Wisconsin Dairy Industry

From improving human nutrition to assuring clean water to growing the farm economy while caring for animals, the Dairy Innovation Hub will harness the intellectual and creative power of three University of Wisconsin institutions to address the most complex challenges facing the state’s dairy industry.

The Legislature allocated $8.8 million for the Dairy Hub in the 2019-21 budget to UW-Madison, UWPlatteville, and UW-River Falls. Last week, the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee released the funding, $1 million this fiscal year and $7.8 million allocated for 2020-21.

The vision for the Dairy Innovation Hub was originally crafted by industry partners following the 2017 UW System Dairy Summit and was supported as a top priority by members of the state’s Dairy Task Force 2.0.

The Hub will enable the expansion of research efforts in four focus areas:

• Stewarding land and water resources
• Enriching human health and nutrition
• Ensuring animal health and welfare
• Growing farm businesses and communities

 

Study: 25% of U.S. Health Care Spending is Wasteful

 A study published Monday in the medical journal JAMA finds that up to a quarter of all United States health care spending is wasteful.

Researchers found that $760 billion to $935 billion health care dollars are wasted every year.

The study cited multiple reasons for the wasteful spending. The biggest driver was administrative issues related to billing and coding. That represented 28% to 35% of total waste.

The second greatest contributor was what authors called “pricing failure.” This was described as waste related to the price of drugs and services “because of the absence of effective transparency and competitive markets.”

Other factors are over-treatment, unnecessary hospital visits, and lack of preventative care.

The U.S. spends more on health care per capita than any other developed nation.

Business Economists Foresee Slowdown in U.S. Growth

The latest survey by a panel of 51 forecasters with the National Association for Business Economics shows they expect growth, as measured by the gross domestic product, to slow to 2.3% this year from 2.9% in 2018. The new forecast marks a downgrade from the 2.6% estimate for 2019 economic growth that the NABE panel had made in June.

For 2020, the forecasters expect GDP growth to fall to 1.8%. They see little likelihood of a recession over the next 12 months but expect the risk to increase by late next year.

The forecasters estimate just a 7% likelihood of a recession starting this year, a 24% likelihood by mid-2020 and 47% by the end of 2020. They foresee a 69% chance of a recession beginning by mid-2021.

The economy is in its 11th year of expansion, the longest on record in the United States. To help avoid a recession, the Federal Reserve has cut its benchmark interest rate twice this year.

Among the NABE panelists, about half foresee no further rate cuts this year; 43% envision at least one further cut. By the end of 2020, 69% expect the Fed to have cut its benchmark rate from where it is now.

Department of Revenue Unveils Business Development and Government Relations Unit

Yesterday, at the 2019 WEDA Fall Conference, Department of Revenue Secretary-designee Peter Barca announced the formation of a new unit in the Wisconsin Department of Revenue.

The Business Development and Government Relations (BDGR) Unit will be part of the Department’s Research & Policy Division and serve as a bridge between the department, other state agencies and small businesses.

The BDGR unit will work with businesses to find what they need to:

 Start or expand

 Recruit and retain employees

 Analyze economic data

 Identify tax incentives

“We want to keep Wisconsin’s economy growing in all 72 counties,” said Governor Tony Evers. “BDGR will help new and growing businesses connect the dots between government agencies and identify resources and information they need to grow and thrive.”

“The Department of Revenue is uniquely positioned to assist Wisconsin businesses,” notes Department of Revenue Secretary Peter Barca. “We have contact with all businesses in the state through tax policy and administration. BDGR can connect businesses to resources and provide an ear for policy suggestions.”