2019 July 12

Daily Archives: July 12, 2019

Andrew Disch: A mainstream perspective on prevailing wage


The column below reflects the views of the author, and these opinions are neither endorsed nor supported by WisOpinion.com.

Recently a spokesperson for Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce [WMC] told the Wisconsin State Journal, “We don’t want to make it too comfortable to remain unemployed.” Currently, the maximum weekly unemployment benefit is $370. Who would describe $370 a week as ‘comfortable’? Similarly, the President of the Associated Builders & Contractors [ABC] has cited “inflated wages” in opposition to prevailing wage. Are rising wages on Main Street somehow a bad thing? The perspectives from corporate special interest groups like WMC and ABC are relevant to understand their criticism of prevailing wage laws.

Now a mainstream perspective.

Prevailing wage laws require that construction workers on public construction projects be paid wages offered on similar jobs by local Wisconsin workers. This results in rising middle class incomes for everyone in the State. It is widely recognized there is a worker shortage in the trades and in order for the next generation to pursue these careers; it needs to make financial sense. Should we expect a person who completes a multiyear apprenticeship program and performs physically demanding work in extreme conditions be paid wages so low that they are unable to obtain a middle-class lifestyle?

Prevailing wage and Wisconsin’s low bid law have held a close association. (The low bid law generally requires public construction projects be awarded blindly to the lowest bidder.) While opponents of prevailing wage frequently mention the “free market,” certainly they would also agree that the low bid law falls outside of it. When building a house, most consumers conduct some investigation into the credibility of the builders submitting bids rather than accepting the lowest bid sight unseen. That is the free market.

Prevailing wage protects taxpayers against the high costs of shoddy contractors: lower quality, expensive delays, less local hiring and underpaid workers relying on government assistance. It ensures a level playing field among bidders within the low bid system. It holds accountable out-of-state contractors that don’t pay Wisconsin taxes or Wisconsin wages. Since prevailing wage’s repeal, these carpetbagging shops increased their share of public work here substantially.

Mainstream perspectives support prevailing wage. A recent poll showed 83% of Wisconsin voters support companies who bid on public construction work should pay competitive wages and benefits. Additionally, the federal prevailing wage law, known as Davis-Bacon, receives broad support in Congress. The House of Representatives votes on this regularly and it is consistently passed with both Democrat and Republican support – one of the rare issues both parties agree on in Washington. In fact, former Republican Speaker Paul Ryan was an ardent supporter.

Embracing prevailing wage in Wisconsin reflects our values of supporting the middle class, respecting the taxpayer and standing up to extreme perspectives. It’s a mainstream policy that’s good for Main Street.

–Andrew Disch is the political director for the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters.


Dept. of Military Affairs: National Guard exercises during PATRIOT North


Lt. Col. Mickey Kirschenbaum                                                                                   
Phone: 775-287-5592

– A natural disaster can strike any time, and the National Guard, along with state and county emergency management agencies, will conduct a disaster readiness exercise called PATRIOT North, beginning July 16, 2019.

PATRIOT North is a joint, interagency exercise, sponsored by the National Guard Bureau (NGB), taking place at Volk Field Combat Readiness Training Center, Camp Douglas, and Fort McCoy, Tomah, Wis. July 15-18. It is a training exercise designed for civilian emergency management and responders to work with military entities in the same manner that they would during disasters. This exercise will test the National Guard’s abilities to support response operations based on simulated emergency scenarios such as a strong storm bringing high winds and the storm surge creating a collapsed building, mass casualties and the need for Search and Rescue along with evacuations of injured. The National Guard, along with local, state and federal partners will be deployed to exercise venues at and around Volk Field practicing the response.

“PATRIOT North provides our Soldiers and Airmen with a chance to improve their skills to respond to a natural disaster and work with emergency management agencies,” said Lt. Col. Roger Brooks, Exercise Director for PATRIOT North. “This exercise will allow all of us prepare for any disaster.”

Brooks added people in parts of Monroe and Juneau counties may see an increase in military equipment moving along roads and interstates, as well as aircraft flying, during the exercise.

There will be a Media tour Tuesday, July 16, 2016 at 1300 at Fort McCoy. Civilian media is invited to observe the exercise activities and get photos and video of the events. Media should contact the exercise Public Affairs office at 775-287-5592 in advance so escorts can be provided. To access the base they should have government issued ID (i.e. driver’s license or passport) and escorts will meet them at the main gate.

More than 700 civilians, volunteers and National Guard Soldiers and Airmen from over 20 states are supporting this year’s exercise. It will also include participating National Guard units from neighboring states, volunteer organizations and county emergency management agencies. The exercise provides the National Guard an opportunity to improve cooperation and relationships with its regional civilian, military and federal partners in preparation for emergencies and catastrophic events.

FRI AM Update: Dem presidential contenders rip Trump at LULAC town hall

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FRI News Summary: Dem presidential contenders address LULAC convention; Trump slams Ryan on Twitter

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FRI REPORT: Trump urges Congress to pass U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade pact

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Howard Marklein: Crossing the border to fill the tank


The column below reflects the views of the author, and these opinions are neither endorsed nor supported by WisOpinion.com.

Wisconsin roads were packed with out-of-state visitors around the Independence Day holiday. If you were out-and-about in the 17th Senate District, you probably saw a lot of Illinois, Minnesota and Iowa license plates. In fact, Interstate 90/94 was an artery in and out of the state throughout the holiday week and will continue to welcome visitors this summer.

Illinois drivers are now coming to Wisconsin for another reason beyond our vacation destinations, cold beer and relaxation. There is an influx of people crossing the border to fill up their gas tanks. I stopped at several gas stations in southern Green and Lafayette counties this week and asked how business was going. Every station told me that they are seeing more Illinois drivers than usual.

Illinois doubled their gas tax on July 1, 2019 from $0.19 per gallon to $0.38 per gallon. They also charge a $0.157 per gallon sales tax on gas. Every gallon of gas in IL is taxed $0.537 and some municipalities and counties add tax on top of that! Depending upon the location in Illinois, the total federal, state and local tax on a gallon of gas can be as high as $0.91.

I have no doubt that vacation travelers from Illinois filled their gas tanks in Wisconsin on their way into the state and again on the way home. But we are also hearing that Illinois residents are purposely crossing state lines to fill-up in Wisconsin, Indiana and Missouri, leaving Illinois gas stations empty. A survey conducted by the Center for State Policy and Leadership at the University of Illinois Springfield and National Public Radio (NPR) Illinois recently concluded that the top reason people move out of Illinois is high taxes. This is just one more example of this ongoing problem south of our border.

According to Illinoispolicy.org, Illinois is at a serious disadvantage compared to Indiana, where drivers can save $0.30 per gallon and Missouri, where drivers can save $0.47 per gallon. When compared to Iowa and Wisconsin, Illinoispolicy.org claims that drivers “are expected to pay about the same as their neighbors at the border.” But this is not true.

The Wisconsin gas tax remains at $0.309 per gallon. However, we do not tack on an additional sales tax or local taxes to our gas. In fact, my team surveyed gas stations in Wisconsin and directly across the border in Illinois on June 26 before the increase and again on July 2 after the increase. On June 26, Wisconsin gas was $0.12 cheaper on average. On July 2, Wisconsin gas was $0.26 cheaper on average!

For a 20 gallon tank, consumers saved an average of $5.20 per fill-up on July 2nd! For a lot of people who have the option, this savings is worth the drive. Drivers in Freeport, IL could drive 22 miles to Monroe, WI and save $0.29 per gallon on July 2. They might do some other shopping, enjoy a meal and further contribute to our economy.

In some places like Kenosha and Genoa City, Illinois drivers saved much more. Kenosha, WI compared to Wadsworth, IL had a difference of $0.40 per gallon on July 2. Genoa City, WI compared to Richmond, IL had a difference of $0.46 per gallon on July 2. That’s quite a savings for about 2 miles of driving!

Crossing the border for gas may have a wider impact as well. On CBS Channel 2 in Chicago, a resident who was filling their tank in Hammond, IN said that they had crossed the border for cheaper gas but were also doing their major grocery shopping to save on sales taxes.

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker estimated that the Illinois gas tax increase will generate $590 million a year for the state, $400 million a year for local governments and $250 million a year for transit authorities. However, Patrick DeHaan from Gasbuddy.com, a website where consumers can search for the cheapest gas, said he expects stations near the Illinois border will have a hard time keeping their doors open. I also wonder what the impact will be on other retailers.

In addition to the gas tax increase in Illinois, according to CBS2, the state’s vehicle registration fees would increase from $101 to $151 a year beginning with 2021 registrations, and electrical vehicle registration fees would go up from $34 every two years to $251 every year. Truck registration fees will rise by $50 for vehicles 8,000 pounds and less, and $100 for vehicles 8,001 pounds and more. Even by raising our registration fee by $10, to $85, we still have the lowest registration fees of our neighbors. Iowa, Minnesota, and Michigan assess registration fees based on the value of the car. These fees can be as high as $260 per year in Iowa, $300 in Minnesota, and $125 in Michigan.

Motor vehicle fuel taxes are due to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR) on the 15th of every month. I will be seeking data to analyze the impact of these changes across the border. Anecdotally, at least, it appears that drivers in Illinois are willing to visit Wisconsin to save some money. Even without increasing our own gas tax, I am optimistic that we will recognize increased gas tax collections and other economic impacts as a result of our prudence.

For more information and to connect with me, visit my website http://legis.wisconsin.gov/senate/17/marklein and subscribe to my weekly E-Update by sending an email to [email protected] Do not hesitate to call 800-978-8008 if you have any questions or need assistance with any state-related matters.

–Marklein, R-Spring Green, represents the 17th Senate District.


Rep. Kitchens: Disappointed with school aid veto


MADISON, Wis. – Rep. Joel Kitchens, R-Sturgeon Bay, is generally pleased with the education portion of the budget recently signed by Gov. Tony Evers, but he is still frustrated with the governor’s decision to veto a provision that would have ensured a minimum level of state aid to all school districts.

“Overall, I think this is a good education budget that moves us in the right direction and I’m glad the governor decided to incorporate many of the final recommendations that came from the Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding, of which I was the co-chair,” Kitchens said. “One area that I’m very disappointed in, however, is the governor’s decision to veto the minimum aid provision. It’s something that we’ve been championing for a long time and I thought we were finally going to get it done.”

When Gov. Evers was superintendent of the Department of Public Instruction, he acknowledged in his “Fair Funding for Our Future” proposal that the state should be providing a minimum level of school aid for every public school student, regardless of the school they attend or where they live.

“I’m at a complete loss for why the governor made this veto,” Kitchens said. “I just don’t understand it.”

The 2019-21 budget passed by the Wisconsin Legislature would have provided at least $1,000 in state aid per pupil to every public school district in Wisconsin through a new categorical aid program. Kitchens says that would have greatly benefited school districts like the ones in Washington Island, Gibraltar and Sevastopol.

Because of the current funding formula, higher property value districts get less state aid than lower property value districts, which puts more of a burden on local taxpayers and can lead to cuts to courses and staff. Kitchens says that just because a district may have high property values, that doesn’t necessarily mean everyone who lives there is wealthy.

Under the governor’s veto, school districts like Washington Island, Gibraltar and Sevastopol will be losing almost $300 per student in state aid compared to the budget passed by the state Legislature.

Rep. Vruwink: Checks & balances are vital to successful governing


Contact: Rep. Don Vruwink, 608-266-3790

By State Representative Don Vruwink

Successful governments are based on compromise. The United States Constitution was built on compromise. Large and small states, slave-holding and free states, exports and imports … all of these issues and interests had to be negotiated. It took three months to write three pages in Philadelphia at Constitutional Hall. Delegates persevered in the heat of the summer to forge this great document.

State constitutions followed the federal model of checks and balances and an independent judiciary. Checks and balances were also key in the development of the state budget bill that recently passed the Wisconsin Legislature. Republicans, Democrats and independents all offered their criticisms and praises on various items in the budget. Different people and different groups wanted more of this or less of that.

When the Legislature and Executive Branch are controlled by different political parties, it is sometimes called “divided government.” I call it “shared government.” From my perspective, this is how government should work. No one should be entirely upset nor entirely happy.

One of the things I liked in the budget bill was the 7.1 percent increase in funding for health services. This means long-term care providers and nursing homes will finally get a boost in reimbursement rates.

Public defenders got a much-needed 17 percent pay increase after having the lowest pay in the nation. Workforce development received a 14.7 percent increase to help address the worker shortage and skills gap. Finally, the budget was able to raise per-pupil spending from $704 to $742 through the use of the governor’s veto power.

The budget falls short beginning with the refusal of the Joint Finance Committee to accept federal funds that would allow us to provide more health services through Medicaid. By accepting federal funds, Wisconsin would save nearly $325 million of our hard-earned tax dollars.

The budget also falls short by not providing the $17 million the governor proposed for promoting tourism. The Joint Finance Committee cut that to $11 million. Tourism numbers show that for every dollar spent in promotion, we get $7 back in tax revenue.

The budget falls short in broadband expansion. The Governor proposed $78 million over the biennium but the final budget provided $48 million. Broadband is needed to keep rural areas vibrant. Without access to reliable high-speed Internet, our businesses, farmers, and students are at a competitive disadvantage and they will be left behind.

Some of the things I wish were included in the budget were eliminated. The Governor proposed $400,000 for farm-to-school grants that would have promoted production of Wisconsin-grown food for sale to Wisconsin schools.

Second, only one new position for the UW School of Agriculture was filled while others were left vacant. Finally, I would have liked to see a bold initiative for student loan relief and non-partisan redistricting.

Gov. Evers signed the state budget bill on July 3rd in the Governor’s Conference Room. I was there and was happy he signed it. The Governor quoted a line inscribed in the ceiling of that room: “The progress of a state is born in temperance, justice and prudence.”

The Governor exercised prudence, using his veto power sparingly. He pledged to continue the fight to accept federal Medicaid funds, restore two-thirds funding of schools, and change the way we do re-districting.

The budget did not fulfill all of my priorities, nor did it fulfill all of the priorities of people on the other side of the aisle. The Governor could have vetoed the budget bill entirely but he chose a moderate path, and that’s the way shared government works.

Rewind: Your Week in Review for July 12

On this week’s episode, WisPolitics.com’s JR Ross and WisconsinEye’s Steve Walters discuss a proposed constitutional amendment to block governors from increasing spending through vetoes, Gov. Tony Evers’ letter asking the WEDC to review the Foxconn deal and more.

Sen. Carpenter: Honoring the Memory of Jeffrey Wischer, William DeGrave, and Jerome Starr


(MADISON)—Today, Senator Tim Carpenter made the following statement in honor of the three ironworkers whose lives were cut short in the Big Blue crane tragedy on July 14, 1999:

            “This weekend will mark the 20th anniversary since Big Blue fell during the construction of Miller Park.

            “It is important to remember this event. It helps us to understand the sacrifices that workers make, which often go unnoticed. Although everything around us requires engineering and construction, it is all too easy to forget about the workers who dedicate their lives to the creation of our communities and the monuments that give us such an enormous sense of pride in the place that we call home.

            “As members of Iron Workers Local 8, Jeffrey Wischer, William DeGrave, and Jerome Starr were part of a team that has served the people of Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan since 1901, helping to construct some of the greatest buildings in this area. The loss of their lives was an unexpected tragedy, and it must inspire our society to appreciate the hard work and sacrifice of the people around us.

            “As you are out and about this weekend, I hope that you will take a moment to reflect on this tragedy and the loss of life that sadly took place during the construction of our iconic Miller Park. If you are at the stadium, please visit their memorial, located north of Miller Park by the main ticket office, and pay your respects to these men who deserved to go home to their families and live on to create more amazing structures for all of us.”

Sen. Erpenbach: Call for equal pay heard around the world, inspires a nation


WEST POINT, WI – After Independence Day last week, we are all feeling a little bit more patriotic, not solely because of the stunning fireworks that lit the sky and the celebration of our independence, but because we were all reminded what it means to be an American.

That same weekend the U.S. women’s soccer team won their fourth World Cup Championship, beating the Netherlands 2-0. This amazing accomplishment of an incredible season of breaking records and triumphant victories was complemented by a swift eruption of chants in support of the team, “equal pay, equal pay.”

This chant followed the players back to the states, as fans showed up to express their support for the team, and their support for equal rights in the workplace. Carrying homemade signs, and throwing confetti out windows, women, men, and children alike celebrated the victory together, and continued their call for equal pay.

There is no doubt that the U.S. women’s soccer team made history, in multiple ways, but their ability to inspire a nation, and bring people from all sides of the aisle together is a truly amazing accomplishment.

So what now? Truthfully, it is sad that in 2019, we are still having this discussion. Everyone deserves equal pay for equal work. It doesn’t matter if you are a world-renowned athlete or not – regardless of your profession, everyone deserves to be fairly compensated for their hard work; free from discrimination based on gender.

Wisconsin has always been a leader when it came to women’s rights. In fact, in June 1919, Wisconsin became the first state to officially ratify the 19th amendment granting national suffrage to women, giving them the right to vote. Additionally, in 2009, Wisconsin had passed an Equal Pay Enforcement Act Law, which ensured fair-pay.

However, Republicans repealed the law in 2012. In doing so, Republicans made it more difficult for women to seek missed compensation due to discrimination. Instead of being able to file a complaint with a state agency, they must engage in a long and drawn-out lawsuit in the courts. Women’s rights have been under attack throughout the United States, and it is disappointing that steps towards equality got overturned.

On average, women in Wisconsin earn 80 cents for every dollar a man makes, and that gap is larger for women of color. This pay discrepancy makes it difficult for Wisconsin to have a full and thriving economy. Women make up nearly half of Wisconsin’s workforce, and 1/3 of households are headed by women.

The numbers are clear. If women received equal pay for equal work, it would help grow our economy all over the state. With more disposable income, families would have an easier time making large purchases, such as homes and cars, and would be able to enjoy more time supporting local businesses within our communities.

By not paying women their fair share, we are hurting our state monumentally. In order for our communities to thrive, we need to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to succeed. Knowingly discriminating against workers based on their gender, rather than what they bring to the table, hinders our economy, and our ability to compete in a global market.

The women’s U.S. soccer team made me feel more patriotic because it reminded me of what makes America an amazing place to live. It is our ability to see injustices within society, and to openly fight for what is right. It is the masses who show up to support our teams, and find common ground, even during distressing times.

With all this said, and as we enter the second half of 2019, we know that enacting equal pay legislation is far overdue. It is time for us to end discrimination in the workplace, and endorse equal pay for equal work. As the chant goes, “U.S.A., Equal Pay.”

Sen. Taylor: Too many unanswered questions on upcoming ICE raids


Michelle Bryant (608) 266-5810

– In response to Donald Trump announcing that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will begin removing thousands of undocumented immigrants from the United States on Sunday, July 14th, State Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) released the following statement: 

“If the Trump administration can’t adequately process the undocumented immigrants currently in their custody, what in the world are they going to do with the roughly 2000 immigrants ICE is expected to start pursuing on Sunday?  Where will they be housed, how quickly will they be processed, and how much is this going to cost, are questions that should definitely be answered immediately.”

“For the fiscal hawks in this country, in 2016, ICE reported that the average deportation cost was $10,854 per person. Using that number as the base of expenses, the price tag could be roughly $22 million dollars.  I’m not say we do nothing, but when we know that the United States is facing a situation in which the Treasury Secretary has warned Congress that we may run out of money needed to keep the government operating and cover interest payments on $22 trillion dollars in national debt by September, can we afford this right now?  Maybe millions spent on the July 4th parade could have offset those expenses.  Either way, we should know the answer to that question, today.”

“However the sad truth is that even if we get answers, we won’t know that they can be believed.  After all, we have not received truthful answers from the President about the safety and well-being of undocumented children being held in U.S. detention centers.  Inspectors from the Department of Homeland Security described the conditions as “dangerous overcrowding” and “rapidly deteriorating conditions”.  Yet the President exclaims that everything is fine.  Reality check: there have been 24 immigrants who have died in ICE custody under the Trump administration.  Everything is not fine.  And now he seeks to compound an already overburdened system?”

“Donald Trump has a track record of moving first and asking the relevant questions later.  That has proven to be a failed strategy every time.”

Trump urges Congress to pass US-Mexico-Canada trade pact

President Donald Trump touted the nation’s strong economy and urged Congress to pass the United States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement during a speech at Derco Aerospace in Milwaukee.

In his sixth visit to the state since taking office, Trump touched on issues ranging from Chinese tariffs on American crops to the 2017 GOP tax bill to increased investments in the U.S. military. But while the president jumped from topic to topic, the theme of rebuilding the economy underlined the address.

Trump repeatedly knocked his predecessors during a roughly 35-minute long address. He charged they signed trade deals that “allowed our factories to close and our workers to go, to not have jobs.”

“Millions and millions of jobs were lost during, I call them the stupid years, but now we’re back into the really smart years,” he said.

He labeled the old North American Free Trade Agreement as “one of the world’s worst trade deals ever” and called on lawmakers to “stop playing around” and take up USMCA, his proposed replacement. But he added that with a presidential election rapidly approaching, its odds of passage dwindle by the day.

Reports from Washington indicate House Dems are unwilling to consider the deal without additions to address enforcement, labor, environmental standards and drug pricing.

State Dem Chair Ben Wikler said Trump knows Wisconsin is key to his re-election next year, but vowed the state will put an end to his presidency “once and for all.”

“But for Wisconsin families, Trump’s presidency has been an unmitigated disaster — he’s jacked up their health care costs, raised their taxes to give handouts to wealthy corporations, and pitted Wisconsinites against each other for his own political gain,” Wikler said. “He’s spearheading a lawsuit right now that could rip away health care from millions of Wisconsinites.”

Ahead of the appearance at Derco Aerospace, Trump attended a luncheon fundraiser at the home of Katherine “Murph” Burke — widow of developer John Burke Jr. — in Fox Point, a Milwaukee suburb. An RNC spokeswoman said the event to benefit Trump Victory, a joint fundraising effort with the national party to include 180 attendees, was expected to raise $3 million.

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, and U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wausau, traveled with the president aboard Air Force One from Washington, D.C. U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Janesville, said he didn’t attend the Milwaukee event with the House in session to vote on a defense policy bill. U.S. Reps. Mike Gallagher, R-Green Bay, and Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, joined Steil in voting against the Dem defense bill, missing the president’s Milwaukee stop.

U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Glenbeulah, Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow, Muskego Mayor Kathy Chiaverotti and Rep. Tyler August, R-Lake Geneva, greeted the president on the tarmac. Trump then hailed supporters gathered at the airport, shaking hands, taking pictures and even signing a high-heeled shoe.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Tony Evers said he hadn’t received an invitation from the White House to greet the president at the airport, and he was in Massachusetts for a Democratic Governors Association meeting when Trump landed in Wisconsin.

An official in Scott Walker’s administration said President Obama didn’t formally invite the former guv to greet him when flying into Wisconsin. Still, the White House would provide advance notice of a trip, and Walker’s office would then work with the president’s detail to arrange a greeting.

Before leaving Washington, Trump again lashed out at former House Speaker Paul Ryan, who was critical of the president in a new book.

After knocking Ryan, R-Janesville, on Twitter Thursday night, Trump told reporters Ryan “was not a talent. He was no leader.” Among other things, he charged Ryan “wouldn’t get subpoenas,” while current Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, “hands them out like they’re cookies.”

He also said Ryan was unable to raise money even though the former congressman broke fundraising records for a speaker while in office. His campaign put out a memo last fall noting he raised and transferred $50 million to the NRCC during the 2018 cycle and sent $100 million to the committee during his time as speaker.

Trump also continued to claim that Ryan was “booed off the stage” by a crowd of 10,000 people after the president introduced him at an event in Wisconsin. During a December 2016 stop in West Allis, the crowd booed Ryan after Trump mentioned him. But he compared Ryan to a “fine wine” at the time, saying he appreciated the lawmaker’s “genius more and more.”

“He was a baby,” Trump said today. “He didn’t know what the hell he was doing.”

U.S. Rep. Kind: Introduces bipartisan bill to make alternative energy options affordable for Wisconsin’s dairy farmers


Contact: Sarah Abel
Phone: 202-225-5506
[email protected]

 – Today, U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) and U.S. Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) introduced the Agricultural Environmental Stewardship Act, bipartisan legislation that will provide tax incentives for farmers and rural electric cooperatives who invest in biogas technology.

“Wisconsin’s dairy farmers fuel our state’s overall economy to the tune of $43.4 billion a year,” said Rep. Ron Kind. “By providing these tax incentives, we are making it more affordable and accessible for Wisconsin dairy farmers to pursue biogas technology and ensuring they can continue to create jobs and grow their businesses, while protecting our natural resources. It’s just commonsense.”

“We must help our dairy farmers find a cost-effective way to use processes that are environmentally friendly,” Rep. Tom Reed said. “This tax credit will make these new technologies more affordable and the use of such methods will benefit our communities.”

“This measure recognizes the value that biogas systems can have for dairy producers of all sizes as they continuously improve their sustainability nationwide,” said Jim Mulhern, President and CEO of NMPF. “The creation of this new investment tax credit also addresses the value of nutrient recovery technologies, which can transform manure into fertilizer for crops and bedding for cows. These technologies are important, but expensive. This bill will help farmers incorporate these new technologies into their operations, for the benefit of everyone.”

“The reintroduction of the Agricultural Environmental Stewardship Act by Congressmen Ron Kind (D-WI-03) and Tom Reed (R-NY-23) will help incentivize investment in digester and nutrient recovery technologies. This bill will assist farmers and agricultural producers in addressing environmental challenges such as nutrient run off and farm odors while simultaneously creating marketable commodities. We see this as a significant boost to the on-farm economy,” said Patrick Serfass, Executive Director of the American Biogas Council (ABC).

The Agricultural Environmental Stewardship Act promotes investment by allowing biodigesters to qualify for an energy tax credit that is on-par with the 30% tax credit for solar energy. This will allow for Wisconsin dairy farms to finally have affordable access installation of biodigesters on their farms, significantly reducing the upfront cost.  Farms will now be able to use digesters or other biological, chemical, thermal, or mechanical processes to make biogas that is at least 52% methane, this will add an immediate new revenue stream to the farm and dramatically decrease pollution and runoff issues.

U.S. Rep. Pocan: Applauds House passage of amendment to restore honor to service members discharged due to sexual orientation


Contact: Ron Boehmer 202-225-2906

 Today, U.S. Representative Mark Pocan (WI-02)applauded the House of Representatives for passing an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would correct the military records of service members discharged solely due to their sexual orientation to reflect their honorable service and reinstate the benefits they earned. The amendment is based on legislation Pocan introduced last month, the Restore Honor to Service Members Act.

“This amendment will require the U.S. Department of Defense to correct the military records of service members discharged solely because of their sexual orientation.  Importantly, amending service members’ discharge characterizations to an honorable discharge will enable impacted individuals to access the benefits they earned and to which they would otherwise be entitled,” said Pocan. “Today is a significant moment for the more than 100,000 Americans estimated to have been discharged from the military since World War II due to their sexual orientation. I’m grateful for my colleagues support of this critical amendment and I hope that the Senate will include similar language in its version of the bill and send it to the President’s desk to become law.”

Since World War II, more than 100,000 Americans are estimated to have been discharged from the military because of their sexual orientation. Those forced out of the military may have left with discharge statuses of “other than honorable,” “general discharge” or “dishonorable,” depending on the circumstances. As a consequence, many of these service members may be disqualified from accessing certain benefits that they earned and are entitled to, and may not be able to claim veteran status. The consequences of a negative discharge also include preventing some veterans from voting or making it more difficult for them to acquire civilian employment.

U.S. Rep. Pocan: To travel to Florida, visit unaccompanied children’s shelter to conduct congressional oversight


Contact: Ron Boehmer 202-225-2906

 – On Monday, July 15, 2019, U.S. Representative Mark Pocan (WI-02) will travel to Miami, Florida, to conduct an oversight visit of the Homestead Influx Facility for unaccompanied children.  The facility is temporarily charged by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) of the Department of Health and Human Services with caring for unaccompanied immigrant children in U.S. custody until they can be reunified with an approved family member or friend pending immigration court proceedings.

Recent media reports have raised serious concerns about the quality of care being administered to children in the custody of the U.S. government.  As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, which funds and oversees this and other similar facilities, Rep. Pocan will personally examine the conditions in which children are being held at the Homestead Influx Facility.

WHAT: Pocan to Travel to Florida, Visit Unaccompanied Children’s Shelter to Conduct Congressional Oversight

WHO: U.S. Representative Mark Pocan (WI-02)

WHERE: Homestead Influx Facility, 620 Bougainville Boulevard, Homestead, Florida 33039

WHEN: Monday, July 15, 2019

NOTE: Rep. Pocan plans to hold a press call following his visit on Tuesday, July 16, 2019. Details will be released on Monday.

U.S. Rep. Steil: Statement on President Trump’s visit to Milwaukee


WASHINGTON, D.C.—Bryan Steil released a statement regarding President Trump’s visit to Wisconsin to discuss the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

“President Trump understands that access to international markets, job creation, and higher wages are vital for Wisconsin’s farmers and workers. From farmers across the state to workers at manufacturing companies like Derco, USMCA will benefit Wisconsin. I am missing today’s event in Milwaukee so I can stand up for our men and women in uniform and vote in opposition to Speaker Pelosi’s defense bill that cuts funding for military personnel and prohibits funding to alleviate the crisis at our southern border.”

U.S. Sen. Baldwin: Calls on President Trump to stop making false claims about agriculture purchases from Mexico and China, and start telling Wisconsin farmers the truth


Wisconsin farmers have been hit hard by Trump trade wars with China, Mexico, Canada and the European Union


More than 1,600 dairy farms in Wisconsin have gone out of business since Trump took office


MILWAUKEE, WI – As President Trump stops in Milwaukee Friday his ongoing trade wars continue to hurt Wisconsin’s agriculture economy.

Today, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin called on the President to stop making false claims about agriculture purchases from Mexico and China, and start telling Wisconsin farmers the truth. Last month, the President falsely claimed that Mexico had agreed to immediately begin buying large quantities of agricultural products from American farmers. And last week, Trump claimed that China will buy “a tremendous amount of food and agricultural product” but has so far offered no evidence or details to support this claim.

In a letter to President Trump, Senator Baldwin wrote, “In June, you announced that Mexico had agreed to buy agricultural products from the United States but it has become clear that claim is simply not true. I’m concerned that you are once again not being honest with American farmers. Last week, following your meeting at the G-20 you said, ‘China is going to be buying a tremendous amount of food and agricultural product . . . very soon, almost immediately’ but that has not borne out.”


Wisconsin farmers have been hit hard by Trump trade wars with China, Mexico, Canada and the European Union. More than 1,600 dairy farms in Wisconsin have gone out of business since Trump took office.

U.S. agricultural exports to China dropped from over $25 billion in 2015 under President Obama to a projected $6 billion this year. Some uniquely Wisconsin products have been included in China’s retaliatory lists, most notably dairy, cranberries and ginseng—all of which have suffered as a result.


“Farmers have enough uncertainty from weather, markets, and the challenges of growing food to feed our nation and the world. Your trade wars, broken promises and exaggerated claims about export opportunities make it even more difficult for them to do business,” Senator Baldwin wrote to the President.

The full letter is available here.

An online version of this release is available here.

Voces de la Frontera: Community forum on defending families & restoring driver licenses for immigrants on Saturday


Sam Singleton-Freeman, [email protected], 414-469-9206
Christine Neumann-Ortiz, [email protected], 414-736-2835

WAUWATOSA, WISCONSIN — On Saturday, July 13, Voces de la Frontera will hold the next stop of the Defending Families, Restoring Driver Licenses for Immigrants statewide tour in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, just outside of Milwaukee. At Saturday’s meeting, community members will speak out about the need to build support for a bipartisan bill to restore driver licenses for immigrants and Voces will share organizing tools to communicate with Republican legislators to support restoring driver licenses. In light of the threats from the Trump Administration to start raids targeting families that have sought asylum starting Sunday, advocates will also conduct a Know Your Rights workshop and invite community members to be part of Voces’ rapid response network to respond to ICE raids.

The tour is a series of town hall forums in cities and towns across Wisconsin to build support for legislation to restore access to driver licenses for immigrant Wisconsinites. The first town hall was last Friday in Green Bay. Forums have also been scheduled in Racine (July 20), Madison, (July 20), Waukesha (August 2), and Dodgeville (August 3), and events are also planned in Eau Claire, Kenosha, Walworth County, Burlington, Sheboygan, and Appleton.

“Wisconsin is a welcoming community,” said Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Executive Director of Voces de la Frontera. “We know there are Republicans who support restoring driver licenses for immigrants. This statewide tour is about building a broad movement that brings together rural and urban communities. This is a critical time when more families are being separated and the rural economy is facing a severe labor shortage in part due to a lack of driver licenses for immigrants. Rural jobs, which we all benefit from, are hard jobs. Immigrants who are part of this workforce are afraid to drive because getting stopped could lead to being detained by ICE and separated from your family. Wisconsin can do better.”

Follow Voces de la Frontera on Twitter at @voces_milwaukee and on Facebook.

Who: Voces de la Frontera, immigrant families, community allies, more

What: Defending Families, Restoring Driver Licenses for Immigrants Statewide Tour town hall meeting in Wauwatosa

When: Saturday, July 13, 11 AM CST

Where: Wauwatosa Public Library, Firefly Room. 7635 W North Ave, Wauwatosa, WI 53213

Wisconsin AFL-CIO President Bloomingdale: Statement on the resignation of Labor Secretary Acosta


Contact:  Karen Hickey, 414-573-7579, [email protected]

Stephanie Bloomingdale, President of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, released the following statement on the resignation of U.S. Labor Secretary Alex Acosta:

As Alexander Acosta steps down as Secretary of the Department of Labor, the labor movement renews our call for a Labor Secretary who will put the needs of American workers first and foremost by enforcing labor law, raising wages, and protecting the freedom of all workers to collectively bargain.

Today’s resignation by U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta is the end of a tenure in office marked by a clear disregard for the interests of working Americans. As the leader of the federal agency charged with protecting and promoting workers’ rights, Secretary Acosta consistently demonstrated greater concern for the interests of corporate bosses. During his time in office, Acosta rolled back overtime protections for workers denying millions of Americans hard-earned wages, tried to make it legal for bosses to pocket workers’ tips, exempted certain seasonal workers from federal minimum wage increases and aimed to roll back child labor law.

Acosta’s willingness to implement policies that favored corporations over workers whose rights he was charged with protecting made him unsuited for the job.

The Secretary of Labor is more than just a cabinet member — his or her actions directly impact worker wages, safety, retirement security and rights and protections on the job every single day. Deregulation and slashing workplace protections is a recipe for disaster. Working Americans deserve a strong Labor Department that defends workers’ rights instead of tipping the scales even further towards the rich and well-connected.

The official mission of the Department of Labor is “to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.”

We call on President Trump and the U.S. Senate to nominate and confirm a new Secretary who is capable and willing to fulfill this mission.

WisDems: Statement on Trump visit to Milwaukee


Contact: Courtney Beyer, [email protected]

— The following is a statement from Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Ben Wikler on President Donald Trump’s visit to Milwaukee today:

“Trump knows as much as we do that the future of our nation depends on what happens in Wisconsin in 2020. But for Wisconsin families, Trump’s presidency has been an unmitigated disaster — he’s jacked up their health care costs, raised their taxes to give handouts to wealthy corporations, and pitted Wisconsinites against each other for his own political gain. He’s spearheading a lawsuit right now that could rip away health care from millions of Wisconsinites.

“One year from today, Democrats will officially nominate their candidate for president here in Milwaukee. But we’re not giving Trump a one-year head start. Democratic Party of Wisconsin is organizing a historic grassroots statewide operation now, so the nominee can hit the ground  at warp speed next summer. In November 2020, Wisconsin will be the state that ends the Trump era once and for all.”

WisOpinion.com: ‘The Insiders’ declare legislative Republicans winners of state budget battle

This time, the WisOpinion Insiders, Chvala & Jensen, are in agreement: legislative Republicans won the battle of the budget.

Sponsored by the Wisconsin Counties Association and Michael Best Strategies.

WisPolitics Midday – July 12, 2019


In today’s WisPolitics Midday Update, brought to you by Spectrum:

  • Dem candidate visit LULAC national convention in Milwaukee.
  • LFB says state still faces large structural deficit heading into the next biennium.
  • President Trump attacks former WI Rep and House Speaker Paul Ryan via Twitter.


July 14, 2019 | July 11, 2019