News of the Day

Wisconsin has a Goal of Broadband for All by 2025

Wisconsin’s broadband infrastructure consistently ranks near the bottom of states in the nation. In 2018, Wisconsin was ranked 32nd for internet access, out of all 50 states.

That ranking makes Wisconsin Broadband Office’s plan to have internet acess for all Wisconsin residents by 2025 a lofty goal, Sen. Patrick Testin, R-Stevens Point said.

“It’s a lofty goal and one if we can hit it that would be fantastic,” said Testin on WPR’s “The West Side.” “I think it sends a strong message that this is an issue that has bipartisan support that we can all get on board with and ensure that we can connect every corner of the state.”

At the state level, Testin said the Public Service Commission (PSC) has created broadband expansion grants for small providers that typically serve rural and underserved areas. He said between 2014-2018, the state has helped connect more than 4,000 businesses and 75,000 households with high-speed internet.

Congress is also taking more interest in bringing high-speed internet to rural areas. Earlier this year, U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, joined the House of Representatives Rural Broadband Task Force — a bipartisan group studying the issue.

“We can do a deep dive into the mapping of the areas to make sure were getting an accurate assessment as far as where the connection is occurring and where it’s pulling up short and then assessing the multitude of programs that are meant to address it,” Kind said.

Wisconsin’s Paper Industry Still Leads the Nation, WEDC Study Finds

Wisconsin’s paper industry continues to lead the nation on many economic measures, according to a new study released by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC).

The study by the Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology (WIST) at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point found the state ranks first in the nation in the number of paper mills, the number of employees and the value of products sold.

Wisconsin’s pulp, paper and converting industries directly generated $18.2 billion in economic output and employed more than 30,000 workers in 2018, the report found.

The paper industry’s total contributions to Wisconsin’s economy—including direct, indirect and induced benefits—come to more than $28.8 billion and more than 95,000 jobs. Indirect benefits include money spent on supplies or other materials or services that supply the industry, while “induced benefits” refers to the spending of personal income from the direct and indirect benefits.

The study also reveals the geographic breadth of the paper manufacturing industry in Wisconsin, with 41 of the state’s 72 counties home to at least one paper manufacturing business, whether that is a mill or a converter. In some counties paper manufacturing represents more than 20% of manufacturing activity.

Governor Evers Requests Federal Damage Assessments for Storm Damage

Governor Tony Evers has requested the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to conduct a Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA) later this month for 19 Wisconsin counties and tribes hit hard by severe storms, flooding, straight line winds and tornadoes. This is the first step in potentially requesting federal disaster aid for local governments as they recover from the storms.

Teams comprised of officials with FEMA and WEM will work with local, tribal and state officials in viewing public infrastructure damage in Barron, Clark, Forest, La Crosse, Langlade, Marinette, Menominee, Monroe, Oconto, Oneida, Outagamie, Polk, Portage, Rusk, Vernon, Waupaca, and Wood counties. In addition, FEMA will assess damage on tribal lands of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin and St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin.

Current local damage assessments show more than $14 million in damage to public infrastructure. Most of the costs are for emergency protective measures, debris removal and damage to electrical equipment owned by municipal and rural electric cooperatives.

FEMA will not be assessing damage to individual homes, cabins or businesses. Much of the reported damage by individuals is either covered by insurance or would not qualify for federal disaster assistance such as downed trees on private property.

Governor Evers Announces Appointments to the Council on Tourism

Yesterday,  Governor Tony Evers announced four appointments to the Governor’s Council on Tourism. The council advises the agency as it develops and enacts the strategic plan to advance tourism.

The four appointments to the Governor’s Council on Tourism are:

  • AJ Frels, originally from Chaseburg, Wisconsin, is the Executive Director of Explore La Crosse, the La Crosse County Convention, and Visitor’s Bureau. Frels previously led tourism in Carson Valley, Nevada. AJ’s experience includes the hotel, lodge and restaurant industries. He previously served as the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Rapids Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
  • Michelle Martin, originally from Springbrook, Wisconsin, serves as the Executive Director of the Washburn County Tourism Association. Martin graduated from UW-Stout in 2006 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management.
  • Krystal Westfahl, originally from Minocqua, Wisconsin, is an avid outdoor recreation enthusiast, serves as the Executive Director of the Minocqua Area Chamber of Commerce. A 2015 recipient of the Wisconsin Tourism Trailblazer Award and a recent nominee for the Wisconsin Governor’s Conference on Tourism Rising Star award, Westfahl previously served as Event and Fundraising Coordinator for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
  • Darren Bush, originally from Monona, Wisconsin, is the owner of Rutabaga Paddlesports and is a founding member of Blue Water Business Consortium. Bush also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the Outdoor Industry Association and the Outdoor Foundation.

U.S. and China Trade Talks to Continue in September

The United State and China will resume trade negotiations in Washington in early September after the two countries discussed increasing Chinese purchases of U.S. agricultural products in the latest talks in Shanghai.

The two sides conducted “frank, efficient and constructive in-depth exchanges” on major economic and trade issues, and they discussed China increasing its purchase of American farm goods and the U.S. creating “favorable conditions” for it, Chinese state-run media Xinhua said Wednesday, adding that the next round of “high-level” talks will convene in the U.S. in September.

The White House said Wednesday that the two sides discussed topics such as forced technology transfer, intellectual property rights, services, nontariff barriers and agriculture.

“The Chinese side confirmed their commitment to increase purchases of United States agricultural exports. The meetings were constructive, and we expect negotiations on an enforceable trade deal to continue in Washington, D.C., in early September,” the statement from the press secretary said.


Capitol One Response to Data Breach

Capital One Financial Corporation announced that on July 19, 2019, it determined there was unauthorized access by an outside individual who obtained certain types of personal information relating to people who had applied for its credit card products and to Capital One credit card customers.

Capital One immediately fixed the configuration vulnerability that this individual exploited and promptly began working with federal law enforcement. The FBI has arrested the person responsible. Based on our analysis to date, we believe it is unlikely that the information was used for fraud or disseminated by this individual. However, we will continue to investigate.

Based on our analysis to date, this event affected approximately 100 million individuals in the United States and approximately 6 million in Canada.

Importantly, no credit card account numbers or log-in credentials were compromised and over 99 percent of Social Security numbers were not compromised.

The largest category of information accessed was information on consumers and small businesses as of the time they applied for one of our credit card products from 2005 through early 2019. This information included personal information Capital One routinely collects at the time it receives credit card applications, including names, addresses, zip codes/postal codes, phone numbers, email addresses, dates of birth, and self-reported income.

Beyond the credit card application data, the individual also obtained portions of credit card customer data, including:

  • Customer status data, e.g., credit scores, credit limits, balances, payment history, contact information
  • Fragments of transaction data from a total of 23 days during 2016, 2017 and 2018

No bank account numbers or Social Security numbers were compromised, other than:

  • About 140,000 Social Security numbers of our credit card customers
  • About 80,000 linked bank account numbers of our secured credit card customers

We will notify affected individuals through a variety of channels. We will make free credit monitoring and identity protection available to everyone affected.


Wisconsin will not hold Sales Tax Holiday for Back-to -School Shoppers

Since back to school shopping can get pretty expensive, Wisconsin held its first tax free holiday for shoppers in early August last year. During that time, shoppers could buy select clothing, technology, and other supplies without paying the 5% sales tax.

The Tax Free Weekend was also beneficial for a lot of stores in the state.

“It helps all the retailers when we have the tax free because they would buy the bigger stuff. If you had a students going back to college they would buy things like furniture, desks and that kind of stuff,” said Meijer Store Manager Don Mettler.

But Democratic Governor Tony Evers has confirmed that the state will no longer participate in the event this year. He said it was a one time deal enacted under the former Republican Governor Scott Walker.

“I think parents are going to be purchasing school supplies whether they have an incentive or not. I just don’t think the incentive actually worked,” said Evers.

16 states will hold a sales tax holiday this year, which is down from a peak of 19 in 2010.

Governor Announces Task Force on Payroll Fraud and Worker Misclassification Appointments

On Friday, Governor Evers announced several appointments to the Task Force on Payroll Fraud and Worker Misclassification. The Task Force will coordinate worker misclassification matters handled by the Departments of Revenue, Department of Workforce Development, Department of Justice, the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance and other agencies.

The task force will report to the governor on or before March of each year on their activities. Misclassification occurs when an employer improperly classifies a worker as an independent contractor instead of an employee, denying the worker legal protections and benefits.

The task force will be staffed by the Department of Workforce Development and DWD Secretary-designee Caleb Frostman will serve as chair. Members of the task force announced by Governor Evers are:

• Attorney General or designee: Michael Morris
• DOR Secretary or designee: Maria Guerra Lapacek
• OCI Secretary or designee: Andrew Stoughton
• DWD Worker’s Compensation Division: Steve Peters
• DWD Unemployment Insurance Division: Mark Reihl
• DWD Equal Rights Division: Jesus Villa
• Workers Representative: Andy Buck
• Business Community Representative: Pete Braun
• Senate Majority Caucus: Sen. Dale Kooyenga
• Senate Minority Caucus: Sen. Dave Hansen
• Assembly Majority Caucus: Vacant
• Assembly Minority Caucus: Rep. Chris Sinicki
• Public Member: Cynthia Buchko
• Public Member: Steuart Wilson
• Public Member: Jerry Shea
• Public Member: Gary Rockweiler
• Public Member: Tim DeMinter



Wisconsin GDP Grew 2.9% in First Quarter

Wisconsin’s real gross domestic product grew at a 2.9% annualized rate in the first quarter, the 24th fastest growth rate in the country, according to new data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The first quarter growth rate was an improvement from 2.1% in the fourth quarter but down from 4.9% in the first quarter last year. For all of 2018, Wisconsin’s economy grew 2.5%, the best year of growth for the state since 2010.

Within the Midwest, North (3.9%) and South Dakota (3.6%) had the strongest growth followed by Ohio (3.5%) and Nebraska (3.4%). Illinois and Indiana grew at the same 2.9% rate as Wisconsin.

The retail trade and finance and insurance segments were the strongest contributors to Wisconsin’s economic growth, accounting for 0.76 and 0.74 percentage points respectively. Nondurable goods manufacturing added 0.51 percentage points and health care and social assistance added 0.41.

Wholesale trade was the biggest drag on Wisconsin’s GDP, cutting 0.14 percentage points. Durable goods manufacturing, transportation and warehousing and accommodation and food service also all cut into the state’s growth.

‘Positive Outlook’ for Wisconsin’s Credit Rating After Two-Year Budget Approved

Wisconsin’s credit rating remains healthy less than a month after the state’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget passed.

Kroll Bond Rating Agency recently assigned the state a rating of AA+ with a positive outlook. S&P Global gave Wisconsin a AA rating for its 2019 general obligation bonds by financial analysis group S&P Global Ratings. And Moody’s maintained the state’s Aa1 rating, also with a stable outlook.

S&P Global Ratings looks at five categories to create its overall state rating, including the state’s economy, management, liability, budget performance and government framework, according to Carol Spain, director of U.S. public finance of S&P.

Spain said Wisconsin’s pension system, one of the best funded in the country, in particular helps to offer flexibility and padding for the state’s budget and reserve balances.

State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski said that she is “glad that Wisconsin’s bond rating continues to remain strong and steady.”

“Ratings impact … bonds prices in the market,” Spain said. “The higher the rating, the lower the interest cost.”