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TABLE OF CONTENTS


QUOTES OF THE WEEK

I love traveling the state and hearing how the things we’re doing are helping. But there’s more to be done. … Are you with me?
– Gov. Scott Walker in a video from his campaign touting his accomplishments ahead of his formal re-election campaign announcement slated for Nov. 5.

See the video: ” >https://youtu.be/AXjaoOnTZXQ

Scott Walker might not be able to walk and chew gum at the same time, but the rest of us can and should be able to do both. Dialogues about racism and domestic violence are not mutually exclusive, and we shouldn’t have to choose between tackling misogyny or domestic violence and systemic racism.
– Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, after the guv urged NFL players to stop protests during the national anthem and instead take a stand against domestic violence in a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith.

See the letter: https://www.wispolitics.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/171016Walker.pdf

I think there’s a policy answer to be had here, but propping up Obamacare and just giving insurance subsidies to insurance carriers to keep a failing system propped up is not the answer.
– House Speaker Paul Ryan, backing President Trump’s move to cut off Affordable Care Act subsidy payments to insurers. Ryan instead called for a “comprehensive” health care solution. Regarding a bipartisan proposal in the Senate to extend the subsidies in exchange for more state flexibility, a Ryan spokesman said the speaker “does not see anything that changes his view that the Senate should keep its focus on repeal and replace of Obamacare.”

Speaker Ryan and President Trump failed multiple times to pass any health care policy. Now Ryan supports cruelly sabotaging the health care of millions of Americans, even though he knows that ending cost-sharing will cause chaos in the market. Democrats know people have the right to health care and Ryan is helping Trump take it away.
– State Dem Party chair Martha Laning.

I think it’s time we consider removing “America’s Dairyland” from our license plate in favor of something more contemporary. “Forward” for example, connotes resolve, indomitability, and progress. It’s our state’s motto, and has been since statehood 170 years ago. And it’s not a bad image to project to the rest of the world.
– WMC President and CEO Kurt Bauer, who said the move would improve the state’s economic brand because of the “misperception” outside of the state that Wisconsin’s jobs are largely agriculture-dominated.

The dairy community — with its hard-working farm families, cheesemakers and host of other supporting businesses — has been the backbone of this state for well over a century. That heritage, and how far we have come, should be great sources of pride. Those are things to be celebrated, not hidden.
– Dairy Business Association President Mike North.

It’s very complex. The company has its shareholders, its investors. We have our taxpayers. Look. I’ve said it a few times now. We’ll take whatever time it takes to get it right.
– WEDC Secretary and CEO Mark Hogan downplaying concerns the state and Foxconn missed a Sept. 30 target to agree on a contract cementing the $3 billion subsidy package for the Taiwanese manufacturer.

Foxconn’s pattern of promising jobs and then failing to deliver has been well documented. Wisconsin might be their next victim.
– Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, in a tweet after President Trump said during a meeting with Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló that Foxconn will “hopefully” build it’s plant in Wisconsin.

If that’s the route they choose to go in, then they should be ashamed. But if that’s what it takes to protect a failing governor, then I guess that’s the route we’ll go.
– Former state Rep. Mandela Barnes accusing the state GOP of race baiting after the party responded to reports he is looking at a run for lt. guv by calling attention to a 2015 video of the Milwaukee Dem’s confrontation with a frequent Capitol protester. He said the state GOP had falsely accused him of assaulting the protester and is trying to portray him as a violent black man to feed into stereotypes. State GOP spokesman Alec Zimmerman responded, “His allegation is as offensive as his actions in the video.”

We get a better product, better results for less cost. Isn’t that something we’re all chasing here in government?
– Rep. David Steffen, R-Green Bay, pitching his proposal to a Senate committee to let a private company build a new prison in the Green Bay area that the state would lease and operate.

More treatment, less prison. That’s the way we’ll have safer communities. That’s the way we’ll have more public safety and at a less cost.
– The Rev. John Mix, former chaplain at the Dane County jail, joining critics who called for looking for ways to reduce the number of inmates rather than building a new prison. Mix said the state should focus its efforts on addiction treatment programs and other methods of being “smarter on crime.”

To be candid with you, we will need some relief, and we will need it sooner than 2020.
– Department of Corrections Secretary Jon Litscher, saying the state is already “at its maximum” in the amount of space it has for prisoners.

POLITICAL STOCK REPORT
–A collection of insider opinion–
(Oct. 14-20, 2017)

Rising

Cory Mason: The Dem state rep comfortably wins a special election to become the next Racine mayor, which will give him a bigger platform to push change than being in one of the smallest Assembly minorities since the 1950s. It also means executive experience and possibly a new avenue should he consider higher office down the line, some say. Mason, who lobbied for AFT-Wisconsin before he was elected to the Assembly in 2006, quickly jumped into the race to replace John Dickert after the former mayor announced plans to resign so he could lead the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Cities Initiative. Mason then won a six-way primary by about 400 votes, prompting some questions about how difficult it would be to cobble together support from his rivals’ backers to win the office. But Mason wins with 55 percent, crediting his positive message and a team of volunteers that closed the race on the doors and the phones to help motivate voters in a low-turnout election. While Mason is in line for a step up, some also view his pending departure as a blow to an Assembly Dem caucus that needs more bright, young members. Mason, 44, will be sworn in as mayor Nov. 7 and said he will not run for re-election for his Assembly seat next fall. But he was unsure if he would serve out the remainder of his term, noting the current redistricting challenge before the U.S. Supreme Court. Whenever he steps away, it’s a good bet his solidly blue Assembly seat largely covering the city of Racine will stay in Dem hands. Some insiders credit Mason with being able to combine a reliably progressive record in the Assembly with a message he’d also be a pro-business mayor, particularly after backing the Foxconn incentive package. While being mayor will give Mason executive experience, it also means he will have to wade into a lot of tough issues leading a city that has struggled with problems such as unemployment, crime and underperforming schools, and some suggest it may be a while before Mason would be in position to look at another office.

Kevin Nicholson: The former Marine and business consultant continues to pull in national support in the race to take on U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison. Now the pro-Nicholson super PAC Solutions for Wisconsin goes up with its first TV buy touting his military background while calling the former Dem a conservative three times. Still, for all the national attention Nicholson has landed in the early going, Wisconsin-based insiders continue to have a wait-and-see approach on his ability to make inroads with the GOP grassroots. Onlookers also debate if the support of another super PAC, this one linked to former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, will mean that much in a tough primary race against Sen. Leah Vukmir, who has attracted traditional in-state support. Insiders note endorsements often only have an impact if they’re accompanied with some spending. So some see the new TV ad from Solutions for Wisconsin, backed by GOP mega-donor Richard Uihlein, as the most significant recent development for Nicholson. The group is putting $115,000 into the first week of a buy, according to the liberal One Wisconsin Now, with broadcast time in the Green Bay, Wausau, La Crosse and Milwaukee markets. Nicholson, who chaired the College Democrats of America, has faced questions about his political conversion, and the spot refers to him as a “true conservative,” an “outsider ready to fight for conservative values” and “conservative Republican Kevin Nicholson.” Considering the skepticism over his bonafides as a conservative, the ad appears to be an effort to assure the GOP base he can be trusted. But there are those who question whether anything can inoculate Nicholson from two things from his Dem past that are sure to play roles in the primary — video of him addressing the Dem National Convention in 2000 and a letter sent that year while head of the College Democrats to EMILY’s List praising the abortion rights group for its work. Still, some national groups don’t seem to be concerned about that past with the pro-Trump Great America PAC endorsing Nicholson along with FreedomWorks, which is aligned with the Tea Party movement. Both point to Nicholson’s opposition to Mitch McConnell as Senate GOP leader in their endorsements. That, too, though is fodder for those who question Nicholson’s authenticity, pointing to a Politico reporter saying the Republican told him in a late August interview that he was prepared to back McConnell. His campaign, though, says that was before the Senate’s repeated failures to repeal Obamacare. In looking at the groups supporting Nicholson, some see Uihlein as a common thread. He has already put at least $3.5 million into Solutions for Wisconsin this year, gave Club for Growth Action $1.5 million in May, John Bolton’s super PAC $100,000 in June and the Madison Project $25,000 in February. He also donated $100,000 to the Great America PAC in 2016 and $250,000 to FreedomWorks that year, according to OpenSecrets.org. The endorsements that rolled in seem to reinforce for some a narrative that has been building for a while in the GOP primary fight. Nicholson’s profile as a former Marine has drawn the attention of national folks looking for a candidate they think would be the strongest challenger to take on Baldwin. But many Wisconsin-based GOP operatives think the national groups are misreading the Republican base here. While Trump’s Wisconsin win in last year’s presidential race has some thinking the party must pick an outsider to take on Baldwin, others point out Trump didn’t win last year’s primary. So while the Great American endorsement may help with some Trump voters, particularly in western and northern Wisconsin, the party’s base is still in the WOW counties of southeastern Wisconsin, where talk radio and an activist base — both of which have longstanding relationships with Vukmir — tend to dominate. That’s also where Trump ran behind U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, last fall by more than 27,000 votes. Still, as much as some GOP insiders seek to downplay the Great American endorsement, Vukmir also met with Bannon. And she hasn’t been shy about sporting a “Make America Great Again” hat as she looks to connect with the president’s hardcore supporters. Breitbart, another extension of Bannon, takes its first shots at Vukmir because she has declined to say if she’d support McConnell as Senate GOP leader. But some see those attacks as playing to a national audience rather than Wisconsin voters. They also point out Bannon and Breitbart didn’t do well playing in the 1st CD GOP primary last year as they went all in on Paul Nehlen only to see House Speaker Paul Ryan trounce him 86-14. Beyond being mum on McConnell and having spent the last 14 years in the Legislature, some question where Trump supporters would really split with Vukmir, who has a solid record on conservative causes during her time in the Legislature. But Nicholson backers are adamant the base isn’t looking for a longtime elected official to send to Washington. And despite questions about Nicholson’s Dem past, some say he can overcome that if he hits every GOP gathering he can between now and August and connects with base voters. Some spending by the outside groups that are backing him would help too, insiders add. While Vukmir is hitting those events, she faces questions on how well she can raise money vs. Nicholson, who likely will benefit from the national groups that are starting to line up behind him. The first TV ad playing up Nicholson’s background as a Marine was smart, some say; now the question is whether he can sell himself as a conservative to scoop up Trump voters outstate while cutting into Vukmir’s base in southeastern Wisconsin. It’s all music to the ears of Dems, who recall the big GOP fight of 2012 that left Tommy Thompson crippled coming out of the primary.

Scott Walker: That the guv is running for a third term is no surprise. Still, as he schedules his formal kickoff for Nov. 5, the chief executive can boast about a bigger-than-expected budget surplus, a $600,000 ad buy from the conservative Americans for Prosperity-Wisconsin praising his stewardship of the budget and a Dem guv field that hasn’t blown away many insiders. But insiders note several unknowns that could make life difficult for Walker, particularly an uncertain environment in 2018, when many expect an unpopular President Trump to be a drag on Republicans nationally in a midterm that history says should be tough for party in power. The one hitch in Walker’s announcement about seeking a third term has been the timing, sources say. He had hoped to announce this summer after the budget wrapped up. But with deliberations stretching into September, Walker was forced to push back his announcement. Still, Walker emphasized the budget positives and his campaign regularly trickled out nuggets to get free media and remind the public of his intentions. Walker’s campaign also launches a new 60-second digital spot in which Walker declares there’s “more to be done” and asks, “Are you with me?” AFP-Wisconsin also will be boosting the guv on TV with its ad buy, which thanks him “for supporting Wisconsin families” with a balanced budget that cuts taxes and puts more money into schools. The message dovetails with Walker’s lines about how he’s found ways to cut property taxes and invest in schools, too. He also gets good news from the Department of Administration, which pegs the closing balance for 2016-17 at $579 million, $112 million more than what the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau had expected this summer. This was thanks to state expenditures coming in a little less than expected and revenues ticking up. The better-than-expected surplus puts the 2017-19 budget in better shape with a projected gross balance of $322.6 million compared to the $210.6 million LFB was expecting after Walker’s vetoes. Still, that’s less than 1 percent of the GPR the state will spend for the two-year period. While budget watchers know that’s not a whole lot of breathing room should things go south with tax collections, it’s another data point Walker can use to make his case to voters, some add. Republicans look at Walker’s record and argue it’s going to be hard for Dems to run against. Unemployment is low, Foxconn is preparing to add more jobs in southeastern Wisconsin, funding is better for schools and a string of tax cuts under his watch benefit taxpayers and businesses. Add in the still-developing Dem field, and some Republicans exude confidence about Walker’s re-election prospects. Still, other Republicans note the uncertainty facing their side in 2018. Trump’s numbers weren’t great in 2016, but he still won Wisconsin, in part, because Hillary Clinton was almost as unpopular, helping to depress Dem turnout. Analysts say it’s not easy winning a third term, especially if the candidate is facing national headwinds. Dems also see an incumbent who still hasn’t won back independent-minded voters after his run for president and believe he’s more vulnerable than some may think, pointing to polls that have regularly had his job approval below 50 percent. Critics of the Foxconn deal continue to question if all the promises will come to fruition, believing the $3 billion incentive package could be a drag on Walker if things fall apart. But in looking big picture, some Dems think they have to find a way to assemble a message that they can do better than Walker rather than just bashing the guv for the decisions he’s made.

Mixed

Foxconn: The Walker administration insists all is well. But there are enough little signs to give critics fodder for questioning whether the promised $10 billion investment and 13,000 jobs will occur. For one, the administration seemed to be in a hurry to have the Legislature approve the $3 billion incentive package by Sept. 30 so the deal could be finalized. But almost three weeks later, the WEDC board has yet to sign off on the contract. After the board’s latest meeting, WEDC Secretary and CEO Mark Hogan downplayed concerns about missing the Sept. 30 target while adding a vote could come at the next meeting Nov. 8. Both sides had agreed in their memorandum of understanding the “importance of finalizing the terms” of the deal by Sept. 30, but Hogan said the agency is taking its time to ensure taxpayers are fully protected under the contract. Still, WEDC board member Tim Carpenter, a Dem member of the Senate from Milwaukee, says a problem was discovered with the contract that he described as a “nuclear bomb” if left unaddressed. He declined to add details, and fellow board member Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha and a project backer, says given the complexity of the deal it’s not “at all surprising” negotiations are still continuing. The former Assembly Dem leader also said he would much rather have WEDC “take the time to fully do the due diligence” on the deal to make sure state taxpayers are protected. Then there are the president’s comments, which Dems seize on as more evidence to question what’s going on. During a meeting with Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, Trump was asked about the budget and started talking about the need for tax cuts. He transitioned to talking about companies that are building or expanding and mentioned Foxconn. The president, who helped announce the initial deal, said he “thinks” the plant is going to be in Wisconsin “And hopefully, it’s going to be there.” Not exactly reassuring, some say. To some, it’s nothing to worry about yet. The company has hired people, picked a site and seems to be moving along. So long as that progress is evident, there’s not much to really fret about. But critics see the developments as a warning sign the promises made to Wisconsin could still fall through, particularly given Foxconn’s record in other states.

Mandela Barnes: The 30-year-old, African-America ex-lawmaker says he’s looking at running for lt. guv next year and believes he could help the Dem ticket bring out voters who stayed home last fall: young people, minorities and Dem voters in Milwaukee. To some Dems, Barnes could be a consensus candidate who could be especially helpful with the ticket considering most of the Dems looking at running for guv right now are white and at least in their late 50s. But the state GOP is already taking shots at him, prompting Barnes to send a sharp rebuke the party’s way. Plus, plenty of insiders question how much any LG candidate can contribute — outside of raising money for the team. Barnes has been working at a policy shop for progressive legislators after losing a Dem primary for the state Senate last year. He tells WisPolitics.com the experience has taken him across the country over the past year and shown him best practices on liberal issues elsewhere. After news of Barnes’ interest breaks, the state GOP calls attention to a 2015 video of Barnes in a confrontation with a frequent Capitol protester. Barnes and two fellow Milwaukee Dems were approached by Miles Kristan in 2015 over a vote to provide public funding for the Milwaukee Bucks arena. After rebuffing the question and walking away, the video cuts out before picking back up with Barnes and Kristan on State Street. The camera is pointed at the ground, but as Barnes walks away, Kristan claims he was assaulted as Barnes swore and grabbed the camera. Barnes says he could have been calmer during the confrontation, but did not touch Kristan and filed a report with Capitol Police over the incident. He also accuses the state GOP of race baiting by falsely accusing him of assaulting someone, saying it’s part of an effort to portray him as a violent black man to feed into stereotypes. The state GOP says the allegation is “as offensive as his actions in the video.” The state GOP using a Capitol protester who poured a beer on Robin Vos’ head during the ongoing tensions over Act 10 to go after Barnes is too much for some. Some Dems see potential for Barnes to bring balance to the guv ticket. While the crowded guv field dukes it out, if Barnes emerges as the consensus candidate for LG, he could be a safe place for donors to plop their money until someone secures the nomination. Barnes could then transfer the funds to the nominee. Others, though, note there’s a downside for Barnes personally. He badly lost his primary challenge of Sen. Lena Taylor, of Milwaukee, for her seat last year. If he gets in and comes up short, they add, it will hurt Barnes’ political future.

America’s Dairyland: They call us cheeseheads. It was a sore spot in the 1990s when California surpassed Wisconsin for milk production, but a point of pride the state still churns out more cheese than its west coast rival. But WMC President and CEO Kurt Bauer touches a third rail of Wisconsin life when he calls for removing “America’s Dairyland” from Wisconsin’s license plates, suggesting it should be replaced with something more “contemporary” like “Forward.” Addressing his group’s State of Wisconsin Business & Industry luncheon in Madison, Bauer says the nickname feeds into misperceptions that the jobs being created in Wisconsin are dominated by the ag industry even after persuading Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn to build a high-tech plant here to build flat screens. But that curdles the cream of the state Dairy Business Association, which defends the state’s reputation as America’s Dairyland, calling the dairy community the backbone of the state for more than a century and that’s something that should be “celebrated, not hidden.” It also draws a bipartisan defense of the slogan with lawmakers proclaiming the benefits of the state’s dairy history, while Dems question why Bauer picked “Forward” as a possible replacement considering it’s Gov. Scott Walker’s re-election slogan, as well as the name of a statue at the state Capitol and a prominent part of the Wisconsin flag. So insiders don’t expect “America’s Dairyland” to come off the state’s license plates anytime soon.

UW Foundations: The UW System insists the problems with UW-Oshkosh’s private foundation are limited. Still, its review of the transactions between other campuses and their foundations turns up some payments that warranted a closer look. Meanwhile, some legislators are waiting for the Legislative Audit Bureau to weigh in before giving the system’s foundations a thumbs up. The review was prompted by alleged illegal deals between UW-Oshkosh officials and the campus foundation to finance some projects, arrangements the system is now suing over. While the system stresses the problems were isolated to Oshkosh, the review did find some other minor issues, as it flagged roughly $5.4 million of about $35 million in transactions reviewed between July 1, 2010, to Jan. 31 of this year. That includes an instance at UW-Milwaukee, where cash the foundation raised during some events was converted into checks at UW-Milwaukee offices instead of being taken to a bank “as a matter of convenience and safety.” The analysis says that’s not a best practice but is allowed if clearly documented. Still, the UW System recommended that in those cases, taking the cash to a bank is preferred. But the Legislative Audit Bureau review likely will be the definitive word for lawmakers. Insiders warn the system always has to be careful about its relationship with GOP lawmakers. The system isn’t out of the woods yet, but advocates suggest unless another shoe drops on the foundations, the issue will fade away.

Falling

DNR regulatory authority: The Dairy Business Association and Department of Natural Resources settle a lawsuit claiming the agency’s overstepping its regulatory authority over dairy farms, including big operations called CAFOs. The agreement, DBA says, will ensure DNR doesn’t “make up the rules as they go along.” But from the perspective of environmental advocacy groups, the implications are still uncertain. That’s because, they say, it’s a complex, multi-part deal. On one hand, DBA alleged in its Brown County Circuit Court suit that DNR is enforcing new standards impacting the dairy industry without having first gone through the rulemaking process. That includes, DBA said in the suit, requirements over how farmers manage rainwater that comes into contact with feed storage or calf hutch areas. The agreement reached says DNR wouldn’t enforce feed storage standards that aren’t “explicitly permitted by Wisconsin law.” It also said the draft program guidelines DNR was following relating to feed storage runoff weren’t legally enacted and therefore “cannot be enforced,” and the agency would instead work on a case-by-case basis moving forward. As part of the settlement, DBA drops an additional claim surrounding DNR’s regulatory authority over CAFOs to have an operating permit. DBA argued in the suit the DNR was exceeding federal standards that were already in place to safeguard those operations. The settlement, according to DNR spokesman Jim Dick, “reaffirms that the DNR has the proper authority to regulate CAFOs and require them to apply for permits based on discharges to groundwater.” It also, he says, doesn’t “change any current environmental protections.” But not so fast, environmental advocacy groups say. There are too many unknowns at this point. They ask, what ramifications could this have on existing or future CAFO permits? What about the DNR’s ability to monitor for compliance in groundwater discharges in the future? And they’re still boiling over the fact that the settlement happened before there was a hearing for citizen intervenors, including groups Clean Wisconsin and Midwest Environmental Advocates, who earlier this month jointly filed a motion to intervene in the suit. MEA staff attorney Sarah Geers says that means “the court didn’t have a chance to fully consider the DNR’s duty to protect our water and our health.” Still, there’s the question of whether the DNR should have settled in the first place, which Clean Water Action Council President and Executive Director Dean Hoegger answers with a no. While DBA says the settlement is a “victory for the rule of law,” Hoegger counters he would’ve liked to see the rule of law be determined by a judge in this case — “and not the DNR caving to the DBA’s lawsuit.” But DBA Government Affairs Director John Holevoet says he isn’t surprised a resolution could be reached — considering, he said, that both DBA and DNR agreed the agency was overreaching in its authority.

UW MBA program: UW-Madison could be shuttering its full-time MBA program, according to an email the Business School sent to its students. It tells of an integrated proposal before faculty that includes “discussion to discontinue” the program, although it notes the school “remains committed to all … currently enrolled” in it. The email, a copy of which was obtained by WisPolitics.com after being first reported by the Wall Street Journal, also invites students to attend a student town hall meeting next week with Business School Dean Anne P. Massey. “We remain committed to offering a forward-thinking curriculum that meets current market demands, so you and future students are best prepared to transform the world of business,” the email concludes. Asked for comment, a Business School spokesman points to a broad statement on the business school’s website that says the business school over the last several months has been holding discussion over “growing our undergraduate BBA and Master’s programs, evolving the focus of our Centers, and considering the future of the Full-Time MBA.” But he declines to comment on whether framework has yet been discussed for how the program would be phased out. Still, the WSJ report notes that the news is part of a larger trend of schools across the country ending their full-time MBA programs due to lacking student interest.

See the email, which was copied and pasted into a separate document to preserve the receiver’s anonymity: https://www.wispolitics.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/171020MBAStudentEmail.pdf

See the business school statement: https://bus.wisc.edu/portfolio

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Register now: ‘Navigating the New Economy’ roundtable discussions

Business leaders and community members have an opportunity to learn from state and local experts about how they can better navigate the new economy during a series of roundtables. The series of community conversations is brought to you by WisPolitics.com and WisBusiness.com in partnership with UW Colleges and UW-Extension.

The interactive sessions will provide insights into the entrepreneurship history and business personality of each community by exploring the area’s industry mix and the key contributors to job creation, as well as share new techniques for developing local resources. UW Colleges and Extension Chancellor Cathy Sandeen will moderate the discussion, and panelists include:

– John Koskinen, Chief Economist for the Wisconsin Department of Revenue
– Mark Lange, Executive Director, UW-Extension’s Division for Business & Entrepreneurship
– A local economic development expert from each community.

The first discussion was held Oct. 17 in Hudson, Additional discussions are to be held Oct. 24 in Richland Center and Oct. 26 in Sheboygan.

The series is sponsored by the Wisconsin Academy of Global Education and Training.

For registration and more information: http://uwex.uwc.edu/news/economyroundtable

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EMPLOYER COALITION, HEALTH CARE COMMUNITY DEBATE NEW FINDING ON WORKERS’ COMP BENEFITS

A new study shows about 77 percent of the workers’ compensation benefits received by injured Wisconsin employees go toward paying for medical care, adding another wrinkle to a heated debate between a coalition of employers and the health care industry at the Capitol.

The study from the National Academy of Social Insurance found that Wisconsin’s percentage was the highest in the country, which had 50 percent of benefits paid dedicated toward medical expenses. The other 50 percent went to the cash benefits that injured employees receive to make up for lost wages when they aren’t able to work.

The coalition of employers, led by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, says the study is more proof that the state’s medical costs in workers’ comp are much higher than those in other states and need to be reined in.

“That’s not something that I think we should be proud of,” said Chris Reader, WMC’s director of health and human resources policy, of the state’s top ranking on the list.

But the health care industry says it’s just another sign that the current system is working well and that the fee schedule would put the state’s high outcomes at risk. They argue cash benefits being lower than other states reflects that people are getting back to work faster, partly because they’re getting high-quality care when going to the doctor. Those payments aimed at making up for lost wages are known as “indemnity payments.”

“Because Wisconsin does such a great job of getting folks back on the job quickly and because the care is so good, you have less of those indemnity payments that you see in other states,” said Mark Grapentine, the senior vice president of government relations at the WIsconsin Medical Society.

Both sides are battling over whether Wisconsin should add a fee schedule to medical costs in the state’s workers’ comp system, with the Medical Society, the Wisconsin Hospital Association and other health care groups opposing the switch.

Those groups note Wisconsin sees far less litigation in workers’ comp cases than other states and that injured workers are more satisfied with their care — two more reasons why the state should stick with its current model rather than switch to “government price-setting.” Joanne Alig, WHA’s senior vice president of policy and research, also said there’s more that insurers and employers could do to find savings within the current structure.

But the coalition of employers, which come from a wide range of industries, says Wisconsin needs to add the fee schedule to join the roughly 40 states with the cost-containment measure. WMC’s Reader also pushed back on claims that the quicker return to work for employees is because of exceptionally good care from health providers; Reader says it’s largely due to employers who are “on doctors’ cases” to ensure workers get back to their companies for lighter-duty work that gets them back on the regular payroll.

The state’s Worker’s Compensation Advisory Council, made up of five management representatives and five labor representatives, is recommending the switch and has sent a bill to the Capitol for lawmakers to begin debating. The health care industry has liaisons to the council, but they cannot vote.

The council voted unanimously to recommend the proposal. And the AFL-CIO says it’s urging lawmakers to pass the bill, which also includes increases in the indemnity payments that injured workers receive.

The bill hasn’t yet been formally introduced and typically goes through the labor committees.

Kit Beyer, a spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said the caucus is still making decisions on next steps on the bill.

A spokeswoman for Senate President Roger Roth, R-Appleton, didn’t respond to a request for what that chamber’s plans are.

See the study:
https://www.nasi.org/sites/default/files/research/NASI_Workers%20Comp%20Report%202017_web.pdf

Groups debate whether Wisconsin medical costs are higher

Both sides are at odds over whether employers in Wisconsin pay more money in medical benefits per claim than elsewhere.

The national Workers Compensation Research Institute says while Wisconsin used to be around the median of states it looked at, that’s no longer the case due to a more rapid growth recently in medical costs in the state than elsewhere.

But the Wisconsin Hospital Association takes issue with those findings.

WCRI’s study looks at 18 states that it says are generally representative of the national picture.

But in a recent separate study that WCRI conducted, it included a table with data from 2010-2012 with the medical costs per claim for 46 states. The data for that table came from the National Council on Compensation Insurance, using the latest figures they’ve published.

That table showed Wisconsin was at the national median in medical costs per claim.

Sharon Belton, senior public policy analyst at WCRI, says the institute does not use that table to make interstate comparisons, partly because the figures aren’t adjusted for differences between the industry mixes in states.

But Alig, of WHA, questioned why WCRI published that table in the first place if it wasn’t meant to be used for comparisons.

Meanwhile, WCRI points to its most recent set of findings for Wisconsin, which show that medical costs per claim are higher than other states it reviewed.

Belton said that for 2009 claims evaluated as of March 2012, WCRI had found Wisconsin’s average medical payments per all paid claims were typical, but for 2013 claims evaluated as of March 2016, that figure for Wisconsin became higher than typical, or 18.7 percent higher than the median.

Reader, of WMC, said the figures that WCRI points to are an accurate reflection of the state’s costs because they adjust for the differences between states. And he said employers who have locations in multiple states know that Wisconsin’s medical costs are higher and understand the need for the fee schedule.

The latest study from WCRI shows that the average medical payment for claims in Wisconsin with more than a week of lost time at work decreased by 1.2 percent from 2014 to 2015, the first year-to-year drop in the state since 1996. Other states that WCRI reviewed in its study also saw decreases during that time.

Belton said more years of data will be needed “to determine whether this was a short-term phenomenon or the start of a longer-term shift in medical cost growth” but noted the state’s average medical costs per claim in 2015 were still above other states WCRI reviewed.

See the table with WCCI data:
https://www.wispolitics.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/171020WCCIData.pdf

See more on the latest WCRI report:
https://www.wcrinet.org/reports/compscope-medical-benchmarks-for-wisconsin-18th-edition


KIND KNOCKS GOP TAX REFORM APPROACH, SKEPTICAL LEGISLATION WILL PASS THIS YEAR

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind knocked the GOP approach to overhauling the tax system this week, saying the introduction of a back-up plan shows the party’s failed to put in the “hard work” to develop a consensus.

The La Crosse Dem’s comments came in response to news this week that U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, is working on a separate “plan B” package because the GOP tax overhaul framework is “going to be very difficult to pass,” according to a Politico report.

“If they can’t get the votes. … I’ve got an alternative,” he told the publication.

But Kind blasted the approach in an interview with WisPolitics.com on Wednesday, saying it signals the GOP process around tax reform is “very chaotic” and lacks “a single direction.”

“At some point everyone needs to get on the same page so we can at least be talking about the details of what direction we’re going to go in,” he said.

Kind, who last month joined a bipartisan meeting at the White House with President Trump to discuss the framework, also expressed skepticism over the timeline Speaker Paul Ryan and other GOP leaders have previously laid out for the plan, which is passage by the end of the year.

Instead, he urged Republicans to slow down, hold more hearings and have more vetting of the framework rather than keeping it “behind closed doors” and “springing it on the American people at the last moment.”

“I know this is important, I know they’re desperate for any type of win they can point to given the failure so far this year,” Kind said.

See more from the interview in this week’s DC Wrap:
https://www.wispolitics.com/2017/dc-wrap-oct-13-19/

Listen to the audio:
https://soundcloud.com/wispolitics/ron-kind-interview/s-x2CTg


WEEK AHEAD

Tuesday: Assembly Public Benefit Reform Committee executive session on two bills relating to setting up FoodShare pilot programs.
– 10 a.m.: 225 Northwest, State Capitol.

Tuesday: Assembly Consumer Protection Committee public hearing on a bill that would let minors operate temporary stands, like lemonade stands, without a permit or a license.
– 10:30 a.m.: 300 Northeast, State Capitol.

POLITICAL TV
(Check local listings for times in your area)

“UpFront with Mike Gousha” is a statewide commercial TV news magazine show airing Sundays around the state. This week’s show features Assembly Speaker ROBIN VOS, R-Rochester; Sauk County Circuit Court Judge MICHAEL SCRENOCK on his state Supreme Court bid; and River Alliance Executive Director RAJ SHUKLA on the bill to end the state’s so-called moratorium on sulfide mining.
*See viewing times in state markets here: http://www.wisn.com/upfront/
*Also view the show online each Monday at WisPolitics.com

“Rewind,” a weekly show from WisconsinEye and WisPolitics.com, airs at 8 p.m. on Fridays and 10 a.m. on Sundays in addition to being available online. On this week’s episode, WisPolitics.com’s JR ROSS and Associated Press reporter SCOTT BAUER discuss Gov. SCOTT WALKER’s upcoming re-election bid, the state budget surplus and Foxconn contract negotiations.
*Watch the show: http://www.wiseye.org/Video-Archive/Event-Detail/evhdid/11909

Wisconsin Public TV’s “Here and Now” airs at 7:30 p.m. Fridays.

“For the Record” airs at 10:30 a.m. Sunday on WISC-TV in Madison. Host NEIL HEINEN talks with U.S. Rep. RON KIND, D-La Crosse, on health care and the GOP tax overhaul framework.

“Capitol City Sunday” airs at 9 a.m. Sunday on WKOW-TV in Madison, WAOW-TV in Wausau, WXOW-TV in La Crosse and WQOW-TV in Eau Claire.

“The Insiders” is a weekly WisOpinion.com web show featuring former Democratic Senate Majority Leader CHUCK CHVALA and former Republican Assembly Speaker SCOTT JENSEN. This week, the two asses former Gov. TOMMY THOMPSON’s legacy in advance of Monday’s premiere on Milwaukee Public TV of the documentary “Tommy Thompson: A Wisconsin Life.”
*Watch the video: https://www.wispolitics.com/2017/wisopinion-com-the-insiders-assess-tommy-thompsons-legacy/
*Listen to the show: https://soundcloud.com/wispolitics/the-insiders-assess-tommy-thompsons-legacy

NAMES IN THE NEWS
Send items to staff@wispolitics.com

The remaining “Navigating the New Economy” roundtables are Tuesday in Richland Center and Thursday in Sheboygan. WisPolitics.com and WisBusiness.com are partnering this month with UW Colleges and UW-Extension, the Wisconsin Counties Association and the League of Municipalities to stage the forums. Each discussion is moderated by UW Colleges and Extension Chancellor CATHY SANDEEN and feature MARK LANGE, executive director of UW-Extension’s Division for Business and Entrepreneurship; and JOHN KOSKINEN, Department of Revenue chief economist. The forums are sponsored by the Wisconsin Academy for Global Education and Training. Register: http://www.uwex.uwc.edu/news/economyroundtable

The next three WisPolitics.com events in Madison and DC:

*An Oct. 31 luncheon with Department of Administration Secretary SCOTT NEITZEL for a behind-the-scenes look at the state budget and the Foxconn and Bucks arena deals. Register: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/wispolitics-luncheon-with-scott-neitzel-tickets-38117586728

*A Nov. 16 breakfast with Morning Consult CEO MICHAEL RAMLET, a Middleton, Wis., native whose team is shaking up the national polling industry. The breakfast will take place at the AT&T Forum near Union Station, on the 5th floor. Breakfast and check-in start at 8:30 a.m. with the program going from 9 to 10 a.m. Register: https://www.wispolitics.com/2017/nov-16-wispolitics-com-dc-breakfast-with-morning-consult-ceo-michael-ramlet/

*A Dec. 19 luncheon with U.S. Senate candidate LEAH VUKMIR, a Republican state senator from Brookfield. Register: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/wispolitics-luncheon-with-senate-candidate-leah-vukmir-tickets-38117718121

The lobbying firm formerly known as Martin Schreiber & Associates has changed its name to Schreiber GR Group. The firm was started by former Gov. MARTIN SCHREIBER almost 30 years ago, and now performs government relations consulting in Madison and Milwaukee for a variety of clients, including nonprofits, trade groups and Fortune 500 companies. See more: https://www.wispolitics.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/171016-FINAL-v1-SGR-Group-PR.pdf

Retired Army Col. STEVE TOFT will formally announce Monday a challenge to U.S. Rep. RON KIND, D-La Crosse, next year. Toft has announcement events planned in Eau Claire and La Crosse.

A documentary on former Gov. TOMMY THOMPSON, “Tommy Thompson: A Wisconsin Life,” will premiere on Milwaukee Public TV on Monday.

New Assembly Minority Leader GORDON HINTZ, D-Hintz, continues to fill out his office staff. EMILY PRITZKOW, who has worked with Hintz for six years and served as lead aide while he was on the Joint Finance Committee, has been named his chief of staff. EMMA CAMPION is working for Hintz as operations directors, while CHRIS McKINNY will join the office Monday as legislative director. He previously worked in the Assembly for eight years, including a stint with DONNA SEIDL when she was assistant minority leader, and was policy and research director for MARY BURKE’s 2014 guv campaign. AARON COLLINS, who worked in the Legislature and has been doing communications for the UW System, is joining Hintz’s staff as communications director.

NICK RUSS is joining ANDY GRONIK’s guv campaign as finance deputy. That role was originally going to be filled by ANNA SCHWARTZSTEIN, who decided to take another opportunity in Madison, the campaign said. Russ is a UW-Madison grad who previously interned for the state Dem Party, U.S. Sen. TAMMY BALDWIN and U.S. Rep. MARK POCAN.

CLAUDIA LOOZE, of WisconsinEye, left her post this week to take a job a communications specialist at Taliesin Preservation Inc. in Spring Green. Taliesin is the estate of architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

The Wisconsin Family Council announced this week that DAVE HUTCHENS, Walnut Hill Bible Church senior pastor in Baraboo, is a recipient of the 2017 John Witherspoon Award. See more: https://www.wispolitics.com/2017/wisconsin-family-council-presents-2017-john-witherspoon-award/

The Wisconsin Safety Council has hired JANET METZGER as executive director. She most recently worked as the strategic account executive for Global Industrial, and has served as the regional director of sales at HD Supply Inc. See more: https://www.wispolitics.com/2017/wisconsin-safety-council-hires-new-executive-director/

Local nonprofit safety coalition Safe Communities recently awarded its 2017 BeSafe Awards to: ROMILIA SCHLUETER, of Supporting Families Together Association; CHUCK LOVELACE, of Essential Shooting Supplies; Dane County Safe Sleep Faith-Based Champions; state Rep. JOHN NYGREN, R-Marinette; and ERNIE STETENFELD, Madison’s Society of St. Vincent DePaul CEO and executive director.

The conservative Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, headed by President MIKE NICHOLS, has changed its name to the Badger Institute. See the release: https://www.wispolitics.com/2017/wisconsin-policy-research-institute-wpri-is-now-the-badger-institute/

ENDORSEMENTS: The following is a list of endorsements made for statewide and congressional district elections in the last week, based on emails received by WisPolitics.com:

— U.S. Senate:

KEVIN NICHOLSON: Great America PAC, FreedomWorks for America.

— 1st CD:

RANDY BRYCE: Social Security Works.

— 3rd CD:

RON KIND: RYAN HONL, veteran and Tomah VA critic.

— Governor:

DANA WACHS: State Reps. DIANNE HESSELBEIN, NICK MILROY and TOD OHNSTAD.

TONY EVERS: Former U.S. Sen. HERB KOHL.

— Supreme Court Justice:

REBECCA DALLET: State Reps. EVAN GOYKE, CHRISTINE SINICKI, DAVID CROWLEY and JOSH ZEPNICK; state Sens. TIM CARPENTER, LaTONYA JOHNSON and CHRIS LARSON; former state Rep. SANDY PASCH; West Allis Mayor DAN DEVINE; and 21 others. See the full list: https://www.wispolitics.com/2017/dallet-campaign/

For more Names in the News, see subscriber products from earlier in the week plus the press release page at WisPolitics.com: https://www.wispolitics.com/

For upcoming events, see the “Week Ahead” in this product and in your e-mail Monday morning. Click here for the online calendar: https://www.wispolitics.com/category/events/

If you have a contribution, e-mail staff@wispolitics.com

LOBBYIST WATCH
(from the state Ethics Commission)

Ten changes were made to the lobbying registry in the past 10 days.

Follow this link for the complete list:
https://lobbying.wi.gov/Who/LobbyingRegistryChanges/2017REG/SearchByDateRange

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