News of the Day

U.S. Spent $1 Trillion on Hospitals in 2018, Report Finds

The U.S. spent more than $1 trillion on hospitals in 2018, the largest percentage of all health spending, according to a new government analysis of health spending released Thursday.

The study from the nonpartisan actuaries at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) found $1.2 trillion, or 33 percent of health care spending in 2018, was on hospitals. Total health spending reached $3.6 trillion.

Retail prescription drug prices fell slightly last year for the first time in 40 years, but spending on retail drugs grew 2.5 percent, to $335 billion. That amounted to 9 percent of total health spending, the study found.

According to the study, health spending overall climbed 4.6 percent in 2018 to $3.6 trillion, accounting for nearly 18 percent of the U.S. economy. Health care expenditures amounted to $11,172 per person.

State Lawmakers Wants Wisconsin to Go Big for Small Business

Yesterday, State Representative Robyn Vining (D-Wauwatosa) and State Senator Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) introduced a bill to create an online portal for Wisconsinites to access information related to starting, maintaining, and growing a small business.

This website is aimed to be a “one-stop shop” for anyone in Wisconsin who has an interest in creating a new business, and for current business owners who want a more streamlined process with state agencies.

Rep. Vining released the following statement in regards to this legislation:

“As a small business owner, and from my conversations in the community about the difficulties small business owners face, I understand what it takes to start and run your own business from the ground up. Right now, the state has different resources to make it easier for business owners, but the information is spread out. This bill creates a one-stop shop for all the information a business owner needs.”

President Warns Trade Talks With China May Last Past 2020 Election

President Trump signaled on Tuesday that he was in no rush to end a long trade war with China, suggesting that he could wait until after the 2020 presidential election to strike a deal and sending stock prices tumbling.

“I have no deadline,” Mr. Trump told reporters during a wide-ranging 52-minute appearance in London with Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO Secretary General. “In some ways I like the idea of waiting until after the election for the China deal.”

He added: “But they want to make a deal now, and we’ll see whether or not the deal’s going to be right, it’s got to be right.”

The Trump administration insists that China must offer more concessions to protect intellectual property and open its markets to American companies, while China is demanding more relief from Mr. Trump’s tariffs in return for such concessions.

American and Chinese officials have remained fairly optimistic that a deal will be struck before the new tariffs take effect Dec. 15, but they say the final decision will fall to Mr. Trump and Mr. Xi.

Two Democrats, Two Republicans File for Candidacy in Wisconsin’s 7th Congressional District

Wausau School Board President Tricia Zunker, a Democrat, was the first candidate to file papers with the state to officially add her name to the ballot.

Zunker submitted her papers Nov. 26 in Madison, according to the Wisconsin Election Commission website, along with 1,518 signatures from 7th District voters supporting her candidacy.

As of Monday evening, Republicans Jason Church and state Sen. Tom Tiffany had also submitted their nomination papers. Church submitted 1,620 signatures, while Tiffany submitted 1,982. Democrat Lawrence Dale also submitted nomination papers, along with 1,103 signatures.

Each candidate is required to submit between 1,000 and 2,000 signatures to the Wisconsin Election Commission to secure a spot on the ballot for the special election, by 5 p.m. Monday. Any challenges to nomination papers are due to the Elections Commission on Dec. 5.

The primary for the special election will be held on Feb. 18, coinciding with the local spring election primaries. The special election will be held on May 12.

The seat was vacated in September when Duffy resigned, saying he needed to spend more time with his wife, Rachel Campos-Duffy, and their newborn daughter, who has a heart defect and Down syndrome.

The 7th District covers most of the northern parts of Wisconsin, including all or some of 26 counties. The district is home to about 710,000 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and is the state’s largest congressional district geographically.

Wisconsin Seeing Fewer Traffic Deaths In 2019

The latest figures from the state Department of Transportation show the 495 fatalities as of Nov. 17. That’s down from 521 at the same point in 2018.

The number of fatal crashes is also down. There were 463 as of Nov. 17, down from 467 through the same period in 2018.

Michael Schwendau with the state Bureau of Transportation Safety said the declines appear to show more drivers are taking safety seriously on the roads.

Drive are “not being distracted with their cellphones driving, buckling up, finding that sober ride home, whether they’re using a ride-sharing service or calling a friend … everybody’s doing their part, so it’s really starting to have some measurable effects on saving lives,” Schwendau said.

Wisconsin is part of a national trend of fewer traffic deaths.

But Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, said the goal remains getting the total number of deaths on the roads to zero.

DATCP: Stop Gifting to Scammers this Holiday Season

This holiday season, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) is reminding shoppers to make sure their gift purchases are not going to scammers.

“Every year we receive complaints from people who thought they were buying holiday presents but never got them,” said Lara Sutherlin, Administrator of DATCP’s Division of Trade and Consumer Protection. “It’s important for consumers to recognize how they can protect their holiday purchases from a scam.”

Shopping Online

• Avoid suspiciously deep discounts or free offers, including social media posts or emails that offer these deals. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
• Verify websites before ordering. A quick internet search can help you verify the company’s information and find any warnings about their website.
• Check that you are using a secure website (“https” rather than “http”) before entering your password or any personal or banking information.
• Pay by credit card. Federal law gives you the right to dispute charges if you report them to the credit card company within 60 days of receiving your statement.
• Keep a paper trail, and carefully review your credit card statements after the holidays for any unauthorized charges.

Buying Gift Cards – Watch for the following common gift card scams:

• Phony surveys that promise a free gift card in exchange for your personal information. Scammers sell your personal information and no gift card is ever sent.
• Unsolicited messages, such as email, text, social media or internet ads that promise a free gift card. Do not click on any links and delete the message.
• Online auction sites selling discounted or bulk gift cards. The cards may have been tampered with, have already been used, or expired.


Wisconsin Transportation Commission to Meet for First Time in Five Years

A Wisconsin transportation panel tasked with overseeing major highway projects is scheduled to meet for the first time in five years next month.

The 15-person commission, which has only convened six times in the last two decades and includes legislative members who have never attended a meeting, last assembled on Dec. 1, 2014.

But Gov. Tony Evers announced Tuesday the Transportation Projects Commission will meet again on Dec. 6 in the state Capitol — a gathering that will include three new citizen members appointed by the governor.

Evers said the meeting would give the body, tasked with approving major road plans for study and signing off on their enumeration for construction, an opportunity to review the status of key projects. 

“The state budget we approved earlier this year includes long-overdue investments in our comprehensive transportation system,” he said in a statement. “The TPC serves a vital role in fostering stronger communication between the state legislature, transportation stakeholders and the public about major highway projects.”

The only project that’s been enumerated without the commission’s recommendations was Interstate 41 between Appleton and Green Bay, which was included in the budget, according to the Department of Transportation.

Milwaukee Offers Molson Coors $2 Million Incentive to Bring Jobs Here

The city of Milwaukee will offer Molson Coors Brewing Company a $2 million incentive package as part of the company’s restructuring plans, which include bringing “hundreds” of jobs to Milwaukee.

In October, Molson Coors announced plans to streamline its operations, which involved moving its corporate headquarters from Denver to Chicago. The structuring plans also will include a shift in functional support roles from several locations around the country to Milwaukee.

As part of the offer, Molson Coors will be required to engage certified small businesses enterprises for at least 25% of the design and construction of the company’s office renovations. Also, at least 40% of labor hours for the renovations must be performed by certified workers under the Residents Preference Program, which requires Molson Coors to meet certain resident hiring goals.

“We want to ensure that the people who live in this community and sometimes the people literally in this neighborhood, are helping to build the future of this city,” Barrett said.

However, even as state and local officials continue to praise Molson Coors’ decision to reinvest in Milwaukee, the exact number of jobs that are coming to Milwaukee is still unknown.

“There will be a gain of jobs in Wisconsin in the hundreds,” said Gavin Hattersley, Molson Coors CEO. “We haven’t finalized that and we’re stilling working through it with our employees.”

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers Signs More Bills

Gov. Tony Evers more than doubled the total number of bills he has signed into law in the last week, approving nearly three dozen measures in the last four days.

But he also vetoed another four bills, bringing his tally up to 11 pieces of legislation that he’s rejected in their entirety.

At the start of last week, Evers had only signed 21 bills into law,  which reported was the fewest at that point in a session since 2001, when 18 were codified. But by Friday, that number had risen to 55.

The latest actions came after the state Assembly sent all 28 bills that were enrolled in the chamber to Evers’ desk, while the Senate passed along the 24 bills that were enrolled there on Tuesday.

Legislation is periodically sent to the governor on pre-designated dates, though leaders in both chambers can choose to move up the time frame, or the governor can call for bills to be sent to him. The next closest date for bills to be sent to Evers is Dec. 5.


No USMCA Deal Yet as Window Narrows for 2019 Vote

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that she doubts Congress has enough time left to pass the USMCA this year, but Democrats and the Trump administration will continue talks next week to work out a compromise on remaining issues.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer met with Pelosi and House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) midday to discuss the last sticking points of the deal. Democrats want President Donald Trump’s trade chief to deliver on stronger enforcement mechanisms in the USMCA before a House vote is held. But lawmakers emerged without any announcement.

The House has only eight official session days left in the 2019 calendar year, although lawmakers are expected to stay on an extra week in December to resolve budget issues and avert a government shutdown.

Despite the short time window, Neal is still hopeful that a deal could be struck soon that would allow Congress to pass the pact this year. He said he would talk with Lighthizer again before Thanksgiving, and even joked he would be spending the holiday with the trade chief.

“We’re going to stay right at this through the next week, and we’re going to have a couple counterproposals,” Neal said. “With all seriousness, we do think we’re down to two-and-a-half, maybe three issues.”