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Wisconsin in focus: Lawmakers set $639M in new funding for schools, voucher expansion in next state budget

Tue, 08/29/2017 - 10:59

Wisconsin State Journal: Lawmakers set $639M in new funding for schools, voucher expansion in next state budget

Republican lawmakers writing the next state budget voted Monday to include a $639 million funding increase for Wisconsin schools — about $10 million less than the record amount Gov. Scott Walker proposed earlier this year.

The budget-writing committee also increased the household income limits for participation in the statewide private voucher school program.

The 2017-19 spending plan also sets up a timeline for a potential turnaround program for the Racine School District and limits the number of times a school district can ask voters to raise property taxes to pay for building projects and school operations.

The GOP plan allows school districts that spend less per student than the average to raise their property taxes, eliminates expiration dates for teacher and school administrator licenses and gives about $9 million to public and private schools to buy computers for ninth-graders.

The Journal Times: Legislative panel backs delay on opportunity school provision

The Racine Unified School District looks as if it could get a pass for one more year on the threat of a possible state takeover of several of its underperforming schools.

But to completely avoid a possible takeover, the School Board will have to make its employee handbook compliant with the state’s Act 10 law, which prohibits collective bargaining for public employees.

As part of an omnibus education provision, the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee on Monday voted to delay the creation of an Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program by one year. If approved by the full Legislature as an amendment to the state’s 2017-19 biennial budget, the delay would help Racine Unified and other school districts which received a failing grade last year from the state Department of Public Instruction.

Unified has been lobbying local legislators to include the change to the current law, which states if a school receives a failing grade from the state two years in a row, then the opportunity schools provision will go into effect. That would mean underperforming schools would be pulled from the school district and a commissioner would be put in charge of those schools. The commissioner would be appointed by the county executive from a pool of candidates chosen by a city’s mayor, the governor and county executive.

 

Wisconsin Gazette: 24 Wisconsin counties have passed resolutions against gerrymandering

The drive to improve the way Wisconsin redraws its district maps is rapidly gaining speed.

Using advanced mathematical modeling, Republicans have gerrymandered the state’s current political map so that 40 percent of its districts do not have competitive elections.

The winners have already been chosen by the way that boundaries were drawn.

In the first eight months of this year, a total of 17 counties in Wisconsin have endorsed the Iowa Model, and 7 counties endorsed it in previous years, so 24 counties are now on board. Three counties – Kenosha, La Crosse, and Monroe  — have passed resolutions saying they are in favor of nonpartisan redistricting in just the past few weeks.

Wisconsin in focus: Gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers says he would renegotiate Foxconn deal

Mon, 08/28/2017 - 10:32

ABC News Wisconsin: Gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers says he would renegotiate Foxconn deal

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers said he would renegotiate the Foxconn deal if he’s elected governor in 2018.

Evers, the state’s DPI superintendent since 2009, appeared on “UPFRONT with Mike Gousha,” produced in partnership with Wispolitics.com.

Evers said he would renegotiate whichever parts of the deal could be renegotiated.

“I don’t think it’s a fair deal for the people of Wisconsin,” Evers said. “I think it’s a bit of a Hail Mary pass. Three billion dollars, without environmental restrictions on the company and no guarantees on the number of jobs.”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Without fix, Wisconsin Foxconn deal could mean higher taxes for local homeowners

The Foxconn Technology Group deal could drop a multibillion-dollar dilemma onto one of the two southeastern Wisconsin counties competing to land it.

The sheer size of the deal — and the state’s complex tax laws — might leave municipal and county officials in the winning community with a tricky decision.

During the development’s early years, they could be tempted to raise taxes on existing homeowners to ensure services keep up with the rapid growth around the Foxconn development. If they wait, these local officials would lose their ability to do so later on because of state property tax caps.

“You could see a big (property tax) increase and residents aren’t going to be happy with that,” said Dale Knapp, research director of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, who examined the issue at the request of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Capital Times: Wisconsin budget committee set to take up K-12, building projects funding

The Legislature’s budget-writing committee will vote Monday on a spending plan for the state’s K-12 schools, moving the weeks-overdue state budget closer to passage — but details of the education package are still unclear.

“For the most part, stay tuned,” said Joint Finance Committee co-chair Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, when asked on Thursday what will be included in the plan the committee will consider.

Nygren said not much has changed since the state Senate and Assembly released competing education packages earlier this summer. Lawmakers have agreed to keep intact an increase in categorical aid proposed in Gov. Scott Walker’s original budget, Nygren said.

The budget will also likely include a measure to allow low spending districts to raise their revenue limits, both Nygren and co-chair Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, said.

 

Krug: Let’s get real about fake news

Sun, 08/27/2017 - 09:05

Fake news is so passé, but we can’t get past it.

Seriously, it’s been probably, what, at least 15 seconds since someone accused someone else of stretching a story to suit their needs, twisting a fact, a comment or an image to fit nicely into their narrative, or engaging in an all-out peddling of baloney.

Or is it bologna? No matter.

The reason we can’t get past fake news is that we secretly love it. And we love to accuse each other of selling it. Yes, baloney and fake news. And neither is too terribly good for us, but that doesn’t stop us from consuming them when nobody is looking.

Let’s skip right past the blatantly awful and contrived stories that have no basis in fact. These are the clickbait stories of inland sharks, miracle pills and most outright political condemnations. These stories are so transparently untrue that a person of average wherewithal and news savvy can immediately determine they are false.

From there, they may have entertainment value in their creativity, but they present no reason for readers to accept them as factual.

Nonetheless, stories such as these entrap the casual news consumer, and those unwilling to think at a level that requires more than the ability to swipe left or right, or communicate effectively without emojis.

If this is you, and you can’t – or won’t – see through stories such as the ones I have illustrated, and still consider them as part of fake news, stop reading here. Please.

I can’t help you. You can’t help you. Nobody can help you, and you can return to whatever it was before I wasted the past four minutes of your happy existence.

No, when I think of criteria for fake news, I stop to ponder stories that have been twisted, manipulated or presented without regard for fairness or accuracy.

These stories would seem plausible, resonate as possibly containing the truth, but – upon closer inspection – are missing some details or pieces, or lack in context and completeness. They require further reasoning or research to confirm initial suspicion that the story is too good (or too bad) to be true. Remember the old game “Two truths and a lie?”

It’s reasonable to expect that a roomful of reporters can participate in the same news conference, take comparable notes, capture the quotations correctly and come away with different stories. Reportage is, after all, a human function.

Perhaps the reporters’ angles are different. Perhaps they represent publications with a specific focus or niche audience that cares intensively about a single issue. Perhaps their news outlet assigned them to focus on a subject that only was a small piece of the news conference because it has special import to their defined geography.

Or maybe these men and women with the notebooks and pens came with their story already written and weren’t really interested in what was said as much as what they think they heard. To think that some journalists don’t start with a story before their reporting begins is to be naïve.  We’ll leave that noble but insulated perspective to academia.

If you hold yourself to a journalistic standard, the goal always is to present your story truthfully. So if the reporter who authored the story you are reading consistently skips facts, lacks the intellectual ability to hold seemingly opposing concepts in their mind and then weigh them fairly or just wants to get home for dinner by 6 each night, well, their stories will fall short of the ideal.

And while there certainly are acts of commission in creating fake news, lazy reporting and inherent bias that goes unrecognized would be key contributors to why it continues to plague journalism.

Before this lands as an outright condemnation of reporters and their ability to perform without prejudice, consider that the rope they walk has been pushed farther away from the safety net. While your local news outlet may have managed to maintain the veneer of health by holding on to its top reporters, or replacing them when they’ve moved on, the backline defense of copy editors and fact-checking has all but evaporated. At the same time, the stakes for error-proof reporting have gotten higher.

In the context of a news operation, the vast majority of the content should be news. That is to say original reporting, or source-cited material, that attempts to identify the news fairly and with context.

Television and digital media are frankly awful at maintaining this measure, and for obvious reasons: Most do not have the financial capacity to invest in reporting, and instead lean on “experts” to riff on the news rather than report it. Newsgathering is expensive, relative to other forms of content for publication.

News ahead of an opinion on the news is good practice. Opinion leading news? Not so much. If your news source subscribes to this pattern, metaphorically (or perhaps euphorically), find a better source.

Reporters have to work hard to fairly create the stories on the beats or within the niche they cover. A story that took you 5 or 10 minutes to read may have taken 5 or 10 hours – and in some cases much longer – to report. They intrude into people’s lives for a living. Some do it far better and far more professionally than others. Some make the world a better place to live in by exposing truth. Some don’t and operate as if they are tenured and untouchable.

Journalism is challenging work. It requires intelligent people with curiosity, confidence and mental dexterity. It takes long hours, and the courage to ask difficult questions to people who oftentimes are difficult. Said another way, you have to give a damn about things that matter, while not giving a damn about what people think of you.

But don’t cry for people in the media. They know the job and its demands before they get into it, or soon after they start. They’re not providing a volunteer service, haven’t answered a calling from a higher power, and are compensated for their time and quality of work. The market determines their value, and they have the opportunity to apply for jobs doing something else, somewhere else anytime they’d like. Nobody is stuck in a journalism job that doesn’t want to be stuck in a journalism job.

In just about every conversation I have with someone who wants to know what they can do about fake news, I offer the same advice: Call it out as false, and detail why. Point out the flaws. Identify the errors of commission as well as those of omission, accuracy and context.

Above all else, stop sharing baloney.

Wisconsin in focus: Wisconsin lawmakers approve property tax cut, near budget deal

Fri, 08/25/2017 - 10:25

Green Bay Press-Gazette: Wisconsin lawmakers approve property tax cut, near budget deal

Republican lawmakers jump-started the stalled state budget Thursday with a committee vote to eliminate a property tax and a pledge to put a state spending plan in place by next month. 

“We’re back in the saddle again,” Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) told reporters.

She and Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) said they expected the budget committee they chair to wrap up its work on the budget the week of Sept. 4. The Assembly would likely take it up the week of Sept. 11 and the Senatethat week or the following one.

As lawmakers work to end the nearly two-month old budget stalemate in the coming weeks, they will likely reduce — but not eliminate — the personal property tax that is imposed on businesses for their equipment and furnishings, Darling and Nygren said.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Candidate Andy Gronik: Waive income tax for college grads to pay student loans

The state should waive income taxes for recent college graduates and then use that money to help young people pay off student loans, a Democratic candidate for governor said Thursday.

Milwaukee businessman Andy Gronik put forward the seed of a proposal in a forum filled with more questions from the audience than answers from the candidate.

Gronik said his idea could boost the economy by helping to bring college graduates to the state and keep them here. Wisconsin could only waive state income taxes — the graduates would still have to pay their federal taxes.

“That’s an idea that I would like to bring forward to the state of Wisconsin to recruit young people to our state. I think it’s essential that we turn around a trend right now that we see young people leaving the state of Wisconsin,” Gronik said.

Capital Times Opinion: ‘Dark store’ loophole a big problem for taxpayers

There’s an issue that citizens of Monona and residents across the state of Wisconsin should be aware of, called the “dark store” loophole. Big box stores like Menards, Target and Walmart, to name a few, are successfully arguing in court that their property should be assessed as a vacant or abandoned building of the same size, not including the value of the business on the property. Such victories will have dire consequences for municipalities large and small because they allow big box stores to push a significant tax burden onto small businesses and homeowners.

What could this mean? The city of Monona has approximately eight big box stores within its city boundaries. If, for example, the Monona Walmart successfully argued their current property assessment of $28.5 million is too high and instead the property should be assessed as a vacant building, its value could be reduced to $9.5 million — a devaluation of $19 million.

Wisconsin in focus: Wisconsin schools superintendent Tony Evers launches campaign for governor

Thu, 08/24/2017 - 11:07

The Capitol Times: Wisconsin schools superintendent Tony Evers launches campaign for governor

State schools superintendent Tony Evers will run for governor in 2018, seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

Evers, 65, announced his candidacy on Wednesday, speaking to supporters at McKee Farms Park in Fitchburg.

The longtime educator said in an interview he had never considered a gubernatorial bid until after his most recent election in April. Evers defeated a Republican-backed candidate with 70 percent of the vote — his third statewide victory since 2009.

The victory offered a glimmer of hope to Wisconsin Democrats, who suffered huge losses at the ballot box in November and have not held majorities in the legislative or executive branches since Walker was elected in 2010.

Milwaukee Business Times: Haribo to receive $21 million in state tax credits

Rosemont, Illinois-based Haribo of America Inc. could receive up to $21 million in state tax credits as it builds a 500,000-square-foot gummy bear production facility in Pleasant Prairie.

To earn all of the credits by 2028, the company would need to make a $220 million capital investment, create 385 jobs, invest $2 million in worker training and make $200 million in purchases from Wisconsin suppliers.

In addition to its announced project, the company also plans to invest more than $300 million over the next 12 years and create another 720 full-time jobs, according to a Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. staff review of the project. The review notes the company is planning to buy enough land to accommodate future expansion, including distribution, sales and corporate business functions.

The German candy maker Haribo’s initial plans for a North American production facility were celebrated as one of the largest foreign investments in state history when they were announced in March, only to be dwarfed months later by Foxconn Technology Group’s planned $10 billion investment.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: State OKs $15.8 million in loans for West Allis-West Milwaukee schools 

Four months after rejecting a $12.5 million increase in spending for operations, residents in the West Allis-West Milwaukee School District will see their taxes rise anyway after the district’s requests for $15.8 million in state loans were approved Wednesday.

The state’s three-member Board of Commissioners of Public Lands voted 2-1 to approve the loans: $12.8 million to pay for energy efficiency improvements and an additional $3 million for capital projects.

The loans will nearly double the debt of the suburban Milwaukee County district, which has been struggling to regain its financial footing after blowing through $17.5 million in reserves in recent years before posting a $2.1 million deficit in 2016.

Andy Chromy, director of finance and operations for the district, defended the School Board’s decision to seek the loans after residents rejected extra spending in a referendum.

Wisconsin in focus: With deal ‘in principle,’ Scott Walker plans to sign state budget by Sept. 22

Wed, 08/23/2017 - 11:43

Capitol Times: With deal ‘in principle,” Scott Walker plans to sign state budget by Sept. 22

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said Tuesday he expects to sign the state budget into law within a month now that he and legislative leaders have arrived at a deal “in principle.”

The Legislature’s budget-writing committee last met more than two months ago, putting its work on hold as the Republican-led Assembly and Senate struggled to reach agreement on key issues like transportation funding and taxes. The budget is now seven weeks overdue.

Work by the Joint Finance Committee is scheduled to resume on Thursday.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin seeks to tighten job requirements on $3 billion Foxconn deal

Gov. Scott Walker’s administration is seeking to tighten up job creation requirements as part of a multibillion dollar deal to bring a Taiwanese company to southeastern Wisconsin, a top official said Tuesday. 

Foxconn Technology Group could receive up to $2.85 billion in cash payments from the state in exchange for building an up to $10 billion flat screen plant and hiring up to 13,000 workers. 

Speaking at a budget committee hearing here Tuesday, the head of Wisconsin’s jobs agency said the state was seeking to include stronger safeguards on those payments in its final contract with the company. 

Green Bay Press-Gazette: Bill would end Wisconsin moratorium on sulfide mining

A bill that would end the moratorium on sulfide mining in Wisconsin also retools other regulations aimed at easing the way for future mining projects in the state.

The legislation is sure to spark a big fight between environmental and business interests over whether sulfide mining can be carried out safely in Wisconsin and whether the bill, in effect, will roll back protections.

Mining companies have eyed Wisconsin for years, but according to mining supporters, the state’s laws are too restrictive.

The legislation targets mining for minerals such as copper, zinc, gold and silver in sulfide rock deposits that have the potential to create acidic runoff and pollute ground and surface water.

Wisconsin in focus: Wisconsin budget negotiations include borrowing, electric vehicle fee

Tue, 08/22/2017 - 10:05

Janesville Gazette: Wisconsin budget negotiations include borrowing, electric vehicle fee

The co-chair of the Legislature’s budget-writing committee says the framework of a deal to end a state budget impasse would include a new fee on electric vehicles amount to about $100 a year and include around $400 million in additional borrowing to pay for roads.

Rep. Jon Nygren said Tuesday that details of the agreement were still being worked out. He says one area that remains unresolved is how much to loosen the income eligibility cut-off to participate in the statewide private school voucher program.

Gov. Scott Walker says a deal has been reached “in principle” and he expects the Legislature to approve the budget by mid-September. Nygren says he agrees with that timeline.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Democrat ‘incredibly frustrated’ with leader Barca over Foxconn

Wisconsin Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca was branded as failing “on all accounts” by a fellow Democrat who was “incredibly frustrated and concerned” with his actions after Barca joined Republicans in voting for a $3 billion tax incentive package for Foxconn Technology Group.

Emails obtained by The Associated Press show that Democratic state Rep. Lisa Subeck of Madison spelled out her grievances to Barca on Friday, the day after the Assembly passed the incentive package backed by Republicans designed to attract Foxconn to build a massive display panel factory in the state.

Barca was one of three Democrats to vote for the measure Thursday, with 28 Democrats against. Barca, of Kenosha, and the other Democrats who voted for it represent southeast Wisconsin, near where Foxconn plans to build a factory that could employ thousands. Reps. Cory Mason of Racine and Tod Ohnstad of Kenosha joined Barca and 56 Republicans in voting for the bill; two Republicans joined all other Democrats in opposition.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Schools superintendent Tony Evers to make run for Wisconsin governor official Wednesday​

State schools superintendent Tony Evers will formally announce his gubernatorial run Wednesday, making him the third Democrat to commit to a bid and the first statewide office holder to challenge GOP Gov Scott Walker.

Evers, who heads the state Department of Public Instruction, will announce his run at a suburban Madison park for children, according to an email sent to supporters Sunday and obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The venue at McKee Farms Park in Fitchburg will highlight Evers’ main credential for voters – his years working on behalf of children as a local school leader and state education official.

“On Wednesday, Tony will officially announce his run for governor because we need a real change here in Wisconsin. That change starts with putting our kids first, investing in our schools, and rebuilding Wisconsin’s middle class,” according to an email sent from the personal account of Jeff Pertl, a top aide to Evers in the superintendent’s office.

Haupt: Why traditional media segued to the left

Mon, 08/21/2017 - 19:35

“Edmund Burk designated the Fourth Estate as watchdogs of government; the press.”

– Albert Clogen

The media has long been regarded as the most important force in government. It is considered the heart and soul of democratic egalitarianism. Thomas Carlyle is a legendary writer and considered the most conspicuous social commentator of his time. He saw the press as instrumental to the birth of democracy, spreading facts and opinions and sparking revolution against tyranny. Carlyle was the first luminary who recognized the importance of the press during the French Revolution. He said, “A Fourth Estate, of able editors, springs up, increases and multiplies; irrepressible, incalculable.”

It is a simple fact that a functioning democracy requires informed citizens. Since our coordination of jurisprudence is a government of “we the people,” rule by the people entails that the people should be informed. And no governing body can operate without knowledge of the issues on which it is to rule. In a representative democracy, the role of the media is a key ingredient to the success of this ability to rule. It not only has an obligation to inform the citizens, it is responsible for bridging the communications gap between the government and voters. It is their duty to indubitably elucidate complex national policy, and …

“Write to be understood, and speak to be heard.”

– Lawrence Powell

Singer Jim Morrison told us, “Whoever controls the media, controls the mind.” It is the media’s responsibility to make the actions of the government known to the public. They have a duty to give equal representation to all opinions as a source of public information. Without media, the loop between the government and the public welfare no longer exists. This makes media indispensable in a functional representative democracy. Without an unbiased media, a utilitarian democracy has little chance of surviving. Regardless of public opinion, the media’s obligation is to report and inform not to trade appeasement for approval.

“Ratings don’t last. Good journalism does.”

– Dan Rather

Today the Fourth Estate has taken a back seat from professionalism. The evolution of the liberal media since the 1950s clearly validates how they have dishonored their once-esteemed vocation. The great “sell out” started after WWII. Media was used to promote the war effort and the networks took notice. And now with national TV in every home, our media outlets realized they had a captive audience. For most all national networks, this was a financial blessing, but for the public it was a curse as they traded ethics for dollars.

“Money often costs too much.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

But why did they choose the Left and not the Right? After WWII, there was a tremendous focus on higher education. And since many of our universities converged on teaching liberal ideology, they received grant money to promote the liberal model of the economy and its benefits to our society. As a result, new journalists, reporters and news anchors were indoctrinated by liberal professors about the evils of capitalism and the damage done by the free market. This played right into the hand of the left as these reporters became liberal robots.

“When yellow journalism replaced real reporting, it forever displaced the Fourth Estate in Parliament’s reporter’s galley.”

– Sir Walter Ebson

By the late 1950s, far left politics dominated most major national newspaper media organizations. And once television became popular, liberals saw how Americans could be influenced by it. This is when they made their move to gain control of the networks. With predominance over them, they controlled all prime time TV and used this valuable air time to sway a gullible public into believing the liberal ideologues would save them. And since news media and political parties share crucial geographic boundaries, this was an obviously beneficial marriage of influential entities. And because all “media markets” and “voting districts” share the same characteristics, they were collectively able to buy predominant market shares. It is with these combined resources they have been manipulating elections for decades:

“The greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse.”

– Edmund Burke

The media also realized since the larger U.S. cities are controlled by the far left, the vast majority of newspaper readers and TV news-watchers in these cities must be Democrats. Since the media did not want to alienate their markets’ voters, they bought into the leftist agenda. Yet this is actually a bit of an oxymoron. What came first, the chicken or the egg? While both the media and Democrats are ultimately dependent on their demographics for survival, the Democratic Party is the one that controls the populations of the major cities; not the media. The media simply nurses from its udder, which keeps it nourished. The left must remain diehard bedfellows with the media to maintain their politically-social dominance.

“Never underestimate the power of human stupidity.”

– Rob Heinlein

Plutarch stated, “In words are seen the state of mind and character and disposition of the speaker.” Instead of liberating voters from perjury-emanating spin-hacks, the right of center depends on new age media to defy them. But this only reaches their base while the left sustains inclusive exposure. Traditional media is firmly entrenched in progressive ideology and willingly espouses this while the right-of-centers call talk radio hosts and vent about this bias. When the right has had occasions to retort, they failed to sway public opinion with mundane repartee. Liberal media continues to control markets by demagoguing half-truth opinionated news, claiming this aggrandizement is reporting.

“Truth does not sell nearly as well as a cleverly contrived disingenuous fairy tail.”

– Chadwick Black

The left keeps the wheels of deception running with well-oiled spin. They feed the media unlimited agitprop to enhance their rhetoric of helping the poor, punishing the rich, and chastening those who contribute most to our nation. The media in turn pontificates this re-branded federalism with gallant enthusiasm that helps them expand federal programs and bring federal dollars into urban markets that support their patronage. Now, reporters espouse more hyperbole than a science fiction writer. They’ve been trained liberalism is synonymous with journalism by federalist professors. CNN’s Jeff Zucker’s nose grew greater than Pinocchio’s when he said, “If it’s of real news value, we’ll cover it”.

In establishing our independence, the pen and the press had a merit equal to that of the sharpest sword. Newspapers were pivotal in the making of America. As the only mass media of the time, they fanned the flames of rebellion, which sustained loyalty and ultimately brought independence. Without the contributions of Ben Franklin, Tommy Paine and some of our lesser known writers, we would still be begging Parliament for tax relief so we could buy tea and crumpets!

“What motivated the British to colonize much of the world was they were looking for a decent meal.”

– Max Harrison

The progressive media has catechized our nation into divide. The last eight years of reporting was abhorrent. We had an administration that ruined free markets, the job market, ravaged national and international security, and was praised for it. Americans have been dumbed down by spoiled brats with typewriters. Anyone who has not discovered the many new sources for altruistic journalism is an obvious candidate to buy a 1985 Yugoslavian Yugo. Dr. King told us “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” Republicanism can’t survive without a candidly ingenuous Fourth Estate.

“The press should be not only a collective propagandist and a collective agitator, but also a collective organizer of the masses.”

– Vladimir Lenin

Wisconsin in focus: Wisconsin community preparing for possible Foxconn facility

Mon, 08/21/2017 - 05:40

The Journal Times: Wisconsin community preparing for possible Foxconn facility

A community in southeastern Wisconsin is planning ahead in case it becomes the site for a major Foxconn Technology Group facility.

Mount Pleasant officials are planning to create the position of project director to handle business related to plans by the company to invest $10 billion in Wisconsin on the first liquid crystal display panel factory located outside of Asia,.

The Mount Pleasant Village Board is scheduled to meet behind closed doors Monday to outline details of the position, which will include a job description and salary. Any motions from the discussion would be made in open session.

Village President Dave DeGroot says the community needs someone to handle the increased development interest in the area related to the prospect of the Taiwanese manufacturing and technology company coming to Mount Pleasant.

WKOW 27: Wisconsin lawmakers introduce bill to relax mining rules

Two Wisconsin lawmakers have introduced legislation to repeal a law that requires mining companies to prove they’ve operated without polluting before they can mine in the state.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports that Republican Sen. Tom Tiffany of Hazelhurst and Republican Rep. Rob Hutton of Brookfield introduced the bill Thursday.

The 1998 law they want to repeal aims to protect the state’s waters from sulfide material that is often unearthed by metallic mining.

Tiffany says the Flambeau copper mine near Ladysmith operated safely and is an example of why the restriction isn’t needed. The mine operated for four years before closing in 1997.

WISC TV 3: Circuit court says wrongfully imprisoned Wisconsin man can sue

A federal appeals court says a Wisconsin man who was wrongly imprisoned for 23 years can sue the detective and two dentists he says conspired to frame him with bogus bite-mark evidence.

The Journal Sentinel reported that the full U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 6-4 in favor of Robert Lee Stinson, an outcome that reversed an earlier decision by a three-judge panel of the court.

Stinson was freed in 2009 after the Wisconsin Innocence Project found experts who rejected the dentists’ conclusions that a bite mark on the homicide victim was left by Stinson. He sued the same year.

Wisconsin in focus: Wisconsin ban on Irish butter sales fail the smell test? Judge lets courts sort it out

Fri, 08/18/2017 - 06:41

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin ban on Irish butter sales fail the smell test? Judge lets courts sort it out

 Consumers know what they like, and they don’t need the state deciding what butter they can buy based on a bureaucrat’s subjective standards about flavor, texture and smell, a lawyer argued Tuesday.

At issue is the constitutionality of a Wisconsin law that bans the sale of butter that hasn’t been graded by the state or federal government.  That means Kerrygold, a popular Irish brand, can’t be sold here — though it is available in other states.

Some butter eaters and a Grafton food shop — a former seller of Kerrygold — sued in March, claiming the law violates the state constitution’s protections of due process, equal protection and even free speech.

They are represented by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, or WILL, a conservative nonprofit law firm. Its director, Rick Esenberg, argued Tuesday against the state’s effort to have the case thrown out.

Reuters: Wisconsin bill giving $3 billion incentives to Foxconn advances

Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled state Assembly voted 59-30 on Thursday to approve a bill that paves the way for a $3 billion incentives package for a proposed liquid-crystal display plant by Taiwan’s Foxconn.

The plan still needs to be approved by the joint finance committee, which has members from both the Assembly and the state Senate, as well as the Senate before it can go to the governor. The finance committee and Senate are also controlled by Republicans.

Foxconn, an electronics manufacturer formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd (2317.TW), hopes to open a $10 billion plant in 2020 at a 1,000-acre site in southeastern Wisconsin.

Foxconn is a major supplier to Apple Inc (AAPL.O) for its iPhones.

“We are ready to take advantage of this historic opportunity … and build a long-lasting relationship with Foxconn,” Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a Republican who helped negotiate the deal, said in a statement.

Wisconsin State Journal: GOP lawmakers introduce bill opening Wisconsin to mining

Two Wisconsin lawmakers on Thursday introduced a controversial proposal to repeal state law requiring mining companies to demonstrate that they have operated without polluting before they are permitted to extract metals here.

“People want to make things in America again,” said Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst. “Our neighbors, Minnesota and Michigan, have placed their shovels in the dirt of America’s future. It is Wisconsin’s turn to do the same.”

Tiffany, who was instrumental in a 2013 law relaxing state iron mining regulations, has been talking for months about lifting the so-called “moratorium” on mining for sulfide metals such as copper and gold.

In April, the Sierra Club and Wisconsin Resources Protection Council urged the Legislature to reject Tiffany’s plan. They said 50 other state, regional and national groups also opposed repeal of the 1998 mining law, which was signed by then-Gov. Tommy Thompson, a Republican, after receiving bipartisan legislative support.

Wisconsin in focus: Wisconsin Assembly set to approve $3 billion for Foxconn

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 06:57

ABC News: Wisconsin Assembly set to approve $3 billion for Foxconn

The Wisconsin Assembly planned to approve a $3 billion tax break Thursday for Taiwan-based Foxconn Technology Group to build a massive display panel factory in the state, a project President Donald Trump touted as a transformational win for the U.S. economy.

Democratic critics in Wisconsin, who don’t have the votes to stop the incentive package or the project, have questioned whether it’s worth the cost. The tax breaks up for a vote Thursday would be the largest in state history and the biggest to a foreign company in the U.S.

If built, the plant would be the first outside of Asia for liquid crystal display panels used in television, computers, medicine and other fields.

Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who led negotiations on the deal won by Wisconsin over competition from several other nearby states, has called it a once-in-a-generation opportunity.

The Post-Crescent: Major annexation effectively eliminates Town of Harrison

The town of Harrison is no more, with the exception of one uninhabited parcel.

The petition to annex the remainder of the town into the village of Harrison was approved July 25 by the Village Board.

“It’ll help us lighten our load a little bit,” said Travis Parish, village administrator. “We won’t have to do double-duty with budgets, taxes. It should make things a little easier on our staff.”

Previously, Parish and other village staff members had dual roles serving the village and town.

Before annexation, the town of Harrison encompassed about 420 acres, or 0.67 square miles, and had about 475 residents. By comparison, the village encompasses about 33 square miles and has about 11,900 residents.

Wisconsin State Journal: State starts investigation into corruption allegations against ex-Sauk County Highway Commissioner

A Wisconsin Department of Justice spokesman confirmed Tuesday that the agency has begun its own investigation into allegations against former Sauk County Highway Commissioner Steve Muchow.

In a June 16 letter to Sauk County Administrative Coordinator Alene Kleczek Bolin, Sauk County Sheriff Chip Meister stated the department had determined a criminal investigation into allegations against the former highway czar was not warranted. The News Republic reported the decision Aug. 7 and disclosed that Meister met monthly with the former county official for breakfast as part of a social group. The following day, Meister asked the DOJ to independently review the case.

DOJ Director of Communications Johnny Koremenos stated in an email to the News Republic the department had begun an investigation into the matter.

In April, county administrative officials opened a personnel investigation into allegations against Muchow.

Highway department staff alleged he misrepresented financial information, manipulated bids, used county resources for personal reasons, misused county business relationships, falsified timecards and mistreated employees.

Wisconsin in focus: Schools gear up for new year without state funding set

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 06:46

Wisconsin State Journal: Schools gear up for new year without state funding set

Schools across Wisconsin are starting a new year without knowing exactly what’s coming from the state as lawmakers continue to put off passing a new two-year state budget.

For many school officials, the delay isn’t worrying them much at this point. But for some, spending on staff, new course materials and training is on hold. And if a new budget isn’t in place soon, payments to schools in rural areas could be delayed and school officials there may turn to borrowing to fill the gap.

“With the state budget not being settled, there’s a lot of uncertainty across all superintendents and people managing the finances of school districts across the state of Wisconsin,” said Brad Saron, superintendent of the Sun Prairie School District. “And what that means is, really, everything is on hold.”

Most schools in Milwaukee and in the state’s voucher programs have already started their 2017-18 school year, and schools in the rest of the state will have their first day on Sept. 5.

WKOW 27: Sen. Johnson: Should Wisconsin bear full Foxconn cost?

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson is questioning whether Wisconsin should bear the full $3 billion in financial incentives being considered to lure electronics giant Foxconn Technology Group to the state.

Johnson raised the question since Illinois workers would also benefit from the plant, which is expected to be built in southeast Wisconsin near the border.

Johnson made the remarks Tuesday to the Rotary Club of Milwaukee, saying the incentives package state lawmakers are weighing is “a risk worth taking.”

Wisconsin Public Radio: State’s Attempt To Dismiss Part Of Butter Lawsuit Fails

A judge has refused to throw out part of a lawsuit challenging a state law on butter sales.

A Grafton food store and four Wisconsin consumers sued the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection in March.

They’re taking aim at a law making it illegal to sell at retail any butter not marked with a Wisconsin grade or its federal equivalent, including Kerrygold Irish butter.

DATCP asked an Ozaukee County judge to dismiss most of the case. But on Tuesday, the state’s motion was denied.

Attorney and conservative activist Rick Esenberg is representing the plaintiffs. He’s pleased the case is going ahead.

 

Congressman: Repealing death tax would be ‘nirvana’

Tue, 08/15/2017 - 14:52

It was Founding Father Benjamin Franklin who said, “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” One Illinois congressman wants to disconnect the two by eliminating the so-called death tax.

Tax reform is one of the major issues being pushed by the administration of President Donald Trump.

U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Illinois, recently shared what’s been concerning his constituents the most.

“Less government,” Shimkus said. “Individual responsibility, lower taxes, more personal freedoms and liberties.”

While tax reform has been elusive so far in Washington, Shimkus said one issue he hopes to get right is eliminating the federal estate tax, also known as the death tax.

“We don’t want triple taxation,” Shimkus said. “We want a simple code that says, ‘You’ve got income, you’re gonna be taxed on income. You’re not going to be taxed on assets evaluations over families, over generations and force people to sell farms.’”

Tax reform is going to happen, Shimkus said, it’s just a matter of what reforms and when.

“So now it’s a matter of how you get lower rates,” Shimkus said. “To get lower rates you have to reduce what we call the loopholes, or the exemptions and all that stuff, and that’s what the fight is going to be.”

As for the estate tax, Shimkus said it doesn’t just hit family farms with triple taxation.

“It could be the automobile repair shop down the street now,” Shimkus said, “with that much assets and just a building and equipment.”

Shimkus said repealing the estate tax would “be nirvana.”

Even if Congress abolishes the federal estate tax, Illinois still levies levels the tax at the state level.

Wisconsin in focus: Walker: Foxconn analysis doesn’t tell the whole story of benefits and risks

Tue, 08/15/2017 - 06:30

The Capitol Times: Walker administration officials: Foxconn analysis doesn’t tell the whole story of benefits and risks

There’s been plenty of debate on the pros and cons of a proposal that would provide incentives for Taiwanese LCD manufacturer Foxconn to build a factory in Wisconsin. Criticism increased after a legislative analysis said the state wouldn’t financially break even on the deal until 2043.

But on two Sunday morning political talk shows, “UpFront with Mike Gousha” and “Capital City Sunday,” officials in Gov. Scott Walker’s administration said the analysis doesn’t tell the whole story of the benefits or risks of the deal. Proponents said the report doesn’t account for other positive economic effects, while others said it’s tough to predict economic conditions decades in the future.

Foxconn has pledged to invest $10 billion and create up to 13,000 jobs, initially hiring 3,000 employees. The state Legislature is currently considering an incentive package bill that would give Foxconn $3 billion in tax breaks and exempt the company from certain environmental regulations.

Last Tuesday, Wisconsin’s nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau released an analysis predicting it will take 25 years for the state to recoup its investment.

WISC 3: Wisconsin Assembly panel approves Foxconn bill

A Wisconsin state Assembly committee has approved a $3 billion tax incentive package for Taiwan-based Foxconn Technology Group.

The Republican-controlled Assembly jobs and economy committee voted 8-5 Monday along party lines to send the bill to the full Assembly. The proposal was tweaked to address some concerns raised by critics that the state is giving away too much to land the plant that could employ thousands of people.

But key provisions tying the tax breaks to Foxconn’s promise to invest $10 billion and employ 13,000 people remain.

Wisconsin State Journal opinion: Foxconn has GOP embracing government-run economy

A bill moving through Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled Legislature wouldn’t only provide $3 billion in taxpayer incentives for a company planning to build an LCD screen plant in Kenosha or Racine county, it could also seek to dictate some company operations.

Government getting all up in the business of, well, business is probably par for the course for Foxconn, which does the greatest share of its production in the government-managed economy of communist China. It’s weird for the party of “free markets,” though, which often bemoans government meddling in health insurance and other private industries.

If Wisconsin’s leaders insist on a Chinese approach to economic development, the least they could do is ensure good wages for the proletariat.

Here are some of the proposals for the Foxconn deal that bring government-private sector symbiosis to a whole new level:

  • State positions created to work specifically on Foxconn issues.
  • Taxpayer-funded expansion of Interstate 94 near Foxconn.
  • Creation of a new state tax credit program for Foxconn.
  • Programs at public colleges and universities to train Foxconn workers.

Haupt: Abandoning the gold standard created legalized theft

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 19:39

“The gold standard kept us honest and forced us to control out of control spending.”

– Lane Brody 

Alan Greenspan told us, “Gold is a good place to put money, given its value as a currency outside of the policies conducted by governments.” This basic truism certifies that money has emerged by evolution from the market process. It was not invented by governments. For centuries, economic forces contributed to the evolution of world monetary systems. The security of nations has always been judged by how they manage their money. Those with stable economies have fewer social and political conflicts. Nations that don’t practice credible guardianship of their currency continually fight for survival. There is nothing more destructive to any society than a government that cannot manage their finances competently. Although we’ve been told “Money can’t buy happiness,” that wise comic Groucho Marx reminded us that, “It certainly lets you choose your own form of misery.”

Centralized banking systems have been around for centuries. Dutch merchant Johan Palmstruch formed Stockholms Banco in Sweden 1657. But this bank ended in disaster when the value of the paper currency exceeded the amount of dalers backing it. When customers learned this, there was a run on his bank and it collapsed. In France 50 years later, John Law, a Scottish womanizer and gambler once convicted of murder and exiled by England, talked the French into helping him open a central bank, the Banque Générale backed by government IOUs. His inept blundering caused the bank and the economy to collapse. Law was banned from France forever. Palmstruch and Law both forgot:

“Rule No.1: Never lose money. Rule No. 2: Never forget Rule No.1.”

– Warren Buffett

The first legitimate paper currency issued by European governments was distributed by colonial governments in North America. The shipment of goods between Europe and the colonies took so long, the colonists often ran out of cash. To pay for luxury items, due to a shortage of currency, the colonial governments used IOUs. This practice of “trading paper for goods” started in Canada, a French colony, in 1685. Military personnel were issued denominated playing cards signed by the governor to pay for goods instead of French coinage. Although primitive, this system of bartering worked well for their colonies: As Plato told us in 390 BC: “Necessity is the mother of invention.”

By the mid 1800s, most countries adopted the gold standard. This guaranteed paper money could be redeemed for its value in gold. This also facilitated trade since it no longer had to be done with heavy gold bullion. It increased trust in world currencies since paper currency had value tied to a precious commodity, gold. And in 1913, America created the Federal Reserve to stabilize gold and currency values. Since printing money not backed by gold created hyperinflation, their goal was to keep inflation low and guarantee the health of the dollar. But that did not last. We soon would learn that:

“Governments lie; bankers lie; even auditors sometimes lie: gold tells the truth.”

– Lord Mogg

In 1900, The Gold Standard Act officially placed the U.S. on the gold standard. America remained on the gold standard until President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his Congress passed the Gold Reserve Act in 1933. It required all gold and gold certificates held by the Federal Reserve to be surrendered to the U.S. Treasury. All contracts and currency that required redemption in gold were declared null and void. He justified this claiming we wanted to stop the run on banks. But contrary to his populist propaganda, his real motive was simply to gain control of our money supply. He was planning massive, expensive socio-economic programs that required capital. Controlling the gold supply would give him money to do this. He knew:

“He who controls the money supply of a nation controls the nation.”

– James Garfield

Before 1934, the government was allowed to print $20.67 in paper money for each ounce of gold.

After FDR did his damage, it increased to $35; a difference of $14.33. By doing this, the value of the gold held by the government increased by over $3 billion! This enabled FDR to create $3 billion in new money out of nothing. He then used it to fund his expansion of government. In doing so, FDR flooded the market with currency, which initially helped the economy. However, this cost us dearly. FDR devalued U.S. paper money by 41 percent to finance his “Bad Deal.” This brought more uncertainty to industry and discouraged investment. Like our former president, he was totally unpredictable? As author Ivan Panin commented, “Of the future, man knows least; yet, about this, he worries most.”

Reaction by the rest of the world to FDR’s actions was immediate. When they heard the U.S. pulled off of the gold standard, it stunned world leaders and seriously damaged world monetary markets. It also locked in pestiferous worldwide economic nationalism. Skyrocketing tariffs, trade subsidies, manipulated fiat currencies became universal and global leaders lost faith in the U.S. economy.

Sweden, Holland, and France shortly abandoned the gold standard. This fiasco left international financial markets demoralized. FDR’s idea of a one size fits all economy failed the international litmus test. Author Dean Koonts reminded us that, “One man’s idea of perfect order is another man’s chaos.”

Removing us from the gold standard caused irrevocable damage. And the passage of FDR’s next Bad Deal made matters worse. He spent like a junkie on a money fix. When the Treasury tightened its grip on currency, this economic uncertainly prolonged the Depression until WWII. FDR went too far. His credibility suffered ineluctable damage and the spell he cast over his Congress vanished quicker than Genie can go back into her bottle. Most of his legislation to expand government was rejected en masses by Congress. They knew we were headed to the “eve of destruction.” As Milton Freeman said, “The great achievements of civilization have not come from government bureaus.”

Four decades later, in 1971, the remaining U.S. ties to the gold standard were severed by President Richard Nixon. Desperately in need of money to pay for the Vietnam War he dubiously inherited from former President Lyndon B. Johnson, he unilaterally canceled the direct convertibility of the U.S. dollar to gold.  And we have had wafting free floating fiat currencies since. Later, he told critics: “Well, I screwed it up real good, didn’t I?”

Since we’ve been divorced from the gold standard, we have suffered three atrocious recessions. Unemployment has been as high as 11 percent. These are horrendous numbers compared to the post WWII era, from 1947 to 1970, when we averaged less than 5 percent. Since government has the power to manipulate the quantity and value of our money, it controls the economy but not our free markets. U.S. Keynesianism has usurped the role of free enterprise and it has created a new era of austerity at the expense of prosperity.

“We pay dearly each day for the cost of free money.”

– Chadwell Black

It’s impossible to return to the gold standard now. But we can resurrect the “classical school” of economics. The health of our economy is dependent upon its valued-real money supply and our free markets must adapt to the changes in equilibrium necessary for “laissez faire” government to work. This is the only responsible way for us to remain independent and maintain individual liberty. Every country that has taken control of their economies also found it necessary to restrain freedom and re-engineer society.

“A major source of objection to a free economy is precisely that it gives people what they want instead of what a particular group thinks they ought to want. Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.”

– Milton Friedman

Wisconsin in focus: Candidates divided on place of politics in Supreme Court elections

Mon, 08/14/2017 - 05:09

Wisconsin State Journal: Candidates divided on place of politics in Supreme Court elections

The two candidates for the state’s highest court who are backed by liberals on Friday showed deep divisions on whether politics has a place in judicial elections.

Madison attorney Tim Burns and Milwaukee County Judge Rebecca Dallet, during their first candidate forum in Madison hosted by the liberal-leaning American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, mostly focused on whether Burns’ approach of running an unabashedly liberal Supreme Court campaign was appropriate for judicial candidates.

Since he announced his intention to seek a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Burns has said repeatedly that he holds progressive values and would uphold them if he were elected to the court.

“My voice may shake, but I will be an unshakable champion for progressive values on the Wisconsin Supreme Court,” Burns said, referring to being born with imperfect vocal cords. “I am not going to apologize for my progressive views.”

The Capitol Times: National conservative group honors UW-Madison chapter for role in campus free speech battle

Young America’s Foundation, a national conservative youth program that has played a key role in the college campus controversy over freedom of speech, has named University of Wisconsin-Madison as its affiliate chapter of the year.

The foundation is influential in conservative circles, boasting such alumni as Trump adviser Stephen Miller and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Vice President Mike Pence spoke at the foundation’s annual student conference in Washington D.C. earlier this month, where he praised YAF as “a bulwark of American greatness,” and noted his 15-year involvement with the organization.

The foundation honored the UW-Madison chapter of Young Americans for Freedom for its hosting of conservative commentator Ben Shapiro last November, where protests erupted that became a flash point for debate about free speech on campus.

The protest colored debate over a state legislative bill requiring the expulsion of students who interrupt guest speakers on UW campuses. In response, the UW System Board of Regents adopted a policy promising to cultivate an “environment where civil discussions can occur.”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Gov. Scott Walker challenger Rep. Dana Wachs to vote against Foxconn deal

State Rep. Dana Wachs (D-Eau Claire) is pledging to vote against a multibillion-dollar jobs deal with electronics maker Foxconn Technology Group, making him the latest and sharpest critic of the proposal among Democratic candidates for governor.

In exchange for environmental exemptions and up to $2.85 billion in cash from state taxpayers, Foxconn has said it would build a $10 billion plant that would employ 3,000 initially and as many as 13,000 in the coming years. GOP Gov. Scott Walker, who signed the deal, is touting it as a win for Wisconsin and a key reason to back his re-election in 2018.

Wachs said he believes the deal is being voted on too quickly with too few protections for taxpayers and the environment.

 

Wisconsin in focus: Senate leader says Foxconn should get deadlines for job creation

Fri, 08/11/2017 - 07:06

Wisconsin State Journal: Senate leader says Foxconn should get deadlines for job creation

Taiwanese manufacturing company Foxconn should have a deadline to create the 13,000 jobs it has promised to bring to Wisconsin in exchange for a $3 billion incentive package funded by state taxpayers, the Senate’s leader said Thursday.

“Let’s say we go through all these hoops, and the locals do as well … but then the jobs don’t show up,” Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, told conservative talk radio show host Jerry Bader Thursday morning. “There’s no timeline necessarily for job creation, and I think that’s got a lot of people nervous.”

Later Thursday, after Senate Republicans met with members of Gov. Scott Walker’s administration who are negotiating with Foxconn, Fitzgerald said he was assured such deadlines could be worked into the contract being drafted. Lawmakers do not have a final say on that contract, however.

Fitzgerald also said he still hasn’t sought to find out whether he has enough votes in his caucus to pass legislation authored by Walker that provides $2.9 billion in refundable tax credits to Foxconn over 15 years, exempts the company from another $150 million in sales taxes on construction materials and equipment, and waives environmental regulations.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel opinion: Walker: Foxconn is a transformational, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Wisconsin

The addition of 13,000 high-tech jobs and an investment of $10 billion will indeed be a transformational, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Wisconsin.

Foxconn, the global electronics manufacturing giant, will make an initial investment of $10 billion to build a 20 million square-foot high-tech manufacturing campus in Wisconsin. To put the massive size of this operation into perspective, you could fit 11 Lambeau Fields inside Foxconn’s planned campus. Now that’s big.

It will be the largest economic development project in state history and one of the biggest in the history of our country. In fact, it represents the largest greenfield investment made by a foreign-based company in U.S. history.

WMTV 15: Wisconsin cranberry growers projected to continue leading US

Wisconsin cranberry growers are expected to continue leading the nation in cranberry production this fall.

Projections released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Thursday say Wisconsin is expected to harvest an estimated 5.6 million barrels of cranberries. That projection is part of the approximately 9 million barrels of cranberries expected nationwide.

The cranberry industry has been facing a surplus for the past several years.

Wisconsin in focus: Wisconsin Senate, Assembly Republicans still divided over timeline for Foxconn deal

Thu, 08/10/2017 - 06:47

The Cap Times: Wisconsin Senate, Assembly Republicans still divided over timeline for Foxconn deal

The state Legislature’s Republican majority remains fractured as the clock ticks on the state budget and a deal to bring Foxconn to Wisconsin.

Assembly Republican leaders said Wednesday they expect to vote next week to approve a $3 billion incentive package for Foxconn, which plans to open a massive manufacturing facility in southeastern Wisconsin. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, told reporters it is “absolutely” his plan to delay action on the Foxconn bill until work on the state budget is complete. The two-year spending plan is now more than a month overdue.

“I’m not doing it just to do it,” Fitzgerald said. “I think it’s a necessity to try and get the state budget in a good place.”

Assembly GOP leaders said they are tentatively planning a committee vote on Tuesday, followed by a floor session on Thursday.

Wisconsin State Journal: DNR hires manager to speed environmental permitting for Foxconn

The Department of Natural Resources has already brought on a project manager to oversee the expected streamlined environmental permitting for a proposed Foxconn manufacturing plant, Secretary Cathy Stepp said Wednesday.

Stepp told Natural Resources Board members about the move while defending the department’s ability to quickly and effectively write permits setting limits for the factory’s air and water pollution and disposal of hazardous waste.

The Legislature is considering Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to offer the Taiwan-based manufacturer an incentive package that includes $3 billion and streamlined pollution permitting.

Walker and many of his fellow Republicans are pushing for quick action. Democrats and conservationist groups say the deal needs much more scrutiny.

WKOW 27: Foxconn shopping for land in southeast Wisconsin

Some farmers in southeast Wisconsin say they’ve been offered $50,000 an acre for their land. They believe it could be because Foxconn wants to build there.

Engineering crews tested soil stability in southern Racine County on Wednesday. Property owners say it’s a sign Foxconn is interested in the area.

Some say they’re not sure they want to sell.

Wisconsin in focus: Foxconn package would cost $150 million in lost sales taxes

Wed, 08/09/2017 - 07:02

NBC 15: Foxconn package would cost $150 million in lost sales taxes

Fiscal estimates show Gov. Scott Walker’s incentives package for Taiwanese electronics giant Foxconn would cost the state and local governments nearly $150 million in lost sales taxes.

Walker has introduced a bill that would give Foxconn up to $3 billion in incentives to build a plant in southeastern Wisconsin. According to state agencies’ fiscal estimates, provisions blocking sales taxes on construction materials and equipment would cost the state about $139 million. Local governments would lose about $10.7 million.

Payroll and capital expenditure tax credits would cost the state about $2.85 billion.

The bill also calls for borrowing $252.4 million to rebuild Interstate 94. The interest on that borrowing from 2019 through 2042 would total $408.3 million.

Foxconn has said the $10 billion Wisconsin plant could bring up to 13,000 jobs.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: We Energies customers could face balloon payment after two-year rate freeze

The two-year rate freeze proposed by We Energies’ parent company comes with a catch: At the end of that period, electric customers would face the utility equivalent of a balloon payment on a mortgage.

The payment is projected to total $487.3 million by the end of this year and $850.8 million by the end of 2019.

It represents “the largest single driver of any future electric rate increase” for We Energies’ customers, WEC Energy Group, the parent company, has acknowledged.

The payment stems from deferred costs — some going back as far as 2002 — that are primarily related to the utility’s transmission system and a power plant in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Wisconsin State Journal editorial: What the Wisconsin Supreme Court doesn’t want you to see

For two decades, Wisconsin was a shining example of what an open court system could be. The state Supreme Court was one of the few in the nation that conducted deliberations in public.

Now that experiment in good government is over.

In June, justices voted to close the doors. No longer will residents get to watch them argue about arcane judicial policies and codes of ethics. They will make those decisions in secret, and the people can just live with whatever they decide, no questions answered.

It was the end of an era in which transparency built trust and allowed voters to make informed decisions when a justice came up for re-election every 10 years. Since the 1990s, Wisconsinites have been able to watch the state’s legal luminaries thoughtfully consider both complex and mundane issues.

Granted, often wisdom and restraint were absent. Justices were sometimes no better than churlish children in a schoolyard. They insulted and berated each other. There was even a physical altercation.

They weren’t building trust. They were undermining it. Transparency caused embarrassment.

New health care plan would make smaller, bipartisan reforms

Wed, 08/09/2017 - 06:19

A number of Congressional members have begun working on a new alternative health-care plan after the last effort to replace Obamacare stalled. But a healthcare expert says it’s likely too late.

The Problem Solvers’ Caucus, consisting of a bipartisan group of 43 House members, introduced a plan to try and combat the coming spike in health-care costs. Companies have until Aug. 16 to lock in their rates and decide whether they’ll participate in a county’s marketplace.

Reps. Dan Lipinski, a Democrat, and Adam Kinzinger, a Republican, both from Illinois, are members of the 43-member Problem Solvers Caucus. The caucus unveiled a health-care plan last week that wouldn’t be as far-reaching as Obamacare or the American Healthcare Act, which stalled last month in the Senate.

The new plan would make small reforms that have been largely agreed to by both parties. Republicans persuaded Democrats to go along with raising the small business exemption from 50 employees to 500. Democrats pushed to maintain levels of Medicaid expansion.

The centerpiece is funding for the cost-sharing reduction program designed to keep premiums low. Without that, insurance companies have indicated that rates would skyrocket for high-risk or low income patients. President Donald Trump has hinted that he may pull that funding, but the bipartisan plan would appropriate it.

The plan also includes coverage for chronic and pre-existing conditions, repealing the medical device tax, and giving states the ability to do business with companies across state lines.

Kinzinger said there are still ways to improve health care for people over what’s out there now.

“Unless the Senate can somehow pull a rabbit out of a hat this month, there is going to be a failing of the health-care system,” he said. “Let’s explore areas of common ground between Republicans and Democrats to try to help give people a better health-care system.”

In a release, Lipinski said their plan will likely see detractors looking to blame the other side of the aisle for a collapse of the health-care industry.

“Some partisans in both parties may even believe that if the ACA fails, the other side will get blamed in the next election,” Lipinski said. “Others will oppose it because they want the ACA to collapse.”

Naomi Lopez Bauman, director of Healthcare Policy for the Goldwater Institute, thinks the failure to repeal Obamacare has killed momentum on more health-care votes in D.C. She thinks that any more action this year will be to simply subsidize providers to keep them offering plans.

“Anything that they’re going to do this late in the game is going to basically involve throwing money at the exchanges,” she said. “After the debacle that was repeal and replace, there’s just not much appetite for the heavy lifting on major health-care reform this year.”

She says that Trump could force the issue of reform by making lawmakers subject to the Obamacare exchanges.

Insurance companies must submit whether they will participate in a county’s exchange by Aug. 16.

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