THU PM Update: State sues Purdue Pharma over opioid epidemic; JFC boosts tech college funding by $25M

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— Flanked by lawmakers, law enforcement officials and advocates, AG Josh Kaul and Gov. Tony Evers announced the state has today filed a lawsuit alleging subsidiaries of Purdue Pharma fueled the opioid epidemic by employing “deceptive” marketing and sales techniques.

Wisconsin is one of five states — along with Iowa, Kansas, Maryland and West Virginia — who today filed separate lawsuits in state court against Purdue Pharma entities and its founders, the Sackler family.

Kaul said today that the state is suing Purdue Pharma L.P., Purdue Pharma Inc. and former chairman and president Richard Sackler. He claimed the opioid epidemic “was not inevitable” and is “in part attributable to the deceptive marketing practices” employed by Purdue and Sackler.

“We allege that the risks of opioid addiction and the risks of overdose were downplayed and that the benefits of opioids were overstated in an effort to change the culture regarding the prescription of opioids,” Kaul said.

Evers, meanwhile, said it was for Purdue to “be held accountable to the people who have suffered at the hands of these decisions and dishonesty.”

“Purdue and the Sackler family led consumers and the healthcare community to believe the myth that opioids were the best way to treat chronic pain. That’s wrong,” he said.

The suit alleges that in response to concerns about opioid abuse, Purdue rolled out an “aggressive marketing campaign” with two goals: to boost sales of its opioid painkiller OxyContin and change accepted norms within the medical community about opioid prescribing.

Purdue Frederick, a subsidiary of Purdue Pharma, pled guilty in 2007 to a federal felony and more than paid $634.5 million in penalties based on marketing practices intended to “defraud and mislead.”

But the DOJ’s complaint alleges after that settlement, Purdue continued to push “false, deceptive and misleading marketing practices” while downplaying risks in an effort to maximize profits.

Wisconsin is already involved in several multistate investigations, including one announced by Former AG Brad Schimel in 2017 probing opioid manufacturers and another Kaul joined in March looking into opioid distributors.

See the release:

See the complaint:

— The GOP-controlled Joint Finance Committee put more money into tech colleges and workforce development than Gov. Tony Evers originally proposed in his budget.

But both investments fell short of the additional $18 million Evers wanted to dedicate to technical colleges and $15 million for workforce development after the state saw revenue estimates climb by $753 million through mid-2021.

The GOP motion to increase funding for the Wisconsin Technical College System by $25 million passed along party lines 11-4.

Evers’ original proposal called for an additional $18 million in general purpose revenue. But yesterday he urged lawmakers to add $36 million, which would have fully funded the tech colleges’ budget request.

Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee, urged Republicans to embrace the $36 million boost, which was rejected along party lines. He pointed to Legislative Fiscal Bureau numbers that show state aid to tech colleges peaked at $119.3 million in 2010-11 before dropping to $83.5 million the following year and then bumping up to $88.5 million in 2014-15. It has remained flat since.

The system also relies on property taxes to fund operations.

Goyke argued the $36 million boost — “and not one penny less” — was needed for Republicans to prove their commitment to the tech colleges, which the GOP has identified as part of the state’s approach to worker training.

Co-chair John Nygren, R-Marinette, countered Republicans provided tech colleges “flexibilities” to address state aid reductions, a reference to Act 10, which required most public employees to contribute more toward their health care and pension costs.

He said Evers “failed” to address workforce development adequately in his original budget and dismissed using the additional revenue now projected to come in to pay for spending. Much of that money is expected to be a one-time influx of cash as businesses adjust to the 2017 overhaul of the federal tax code.

Rep. Mike Rohrkaste, R-Neenah, also knocked Dems’ proposal, saying Evers only wanted to invest another $36 million in the tech colleges after it became “convenient.” He also rejected Dems’ argument about how Republicans have approached government.

“Their code word for investing is spending beyond their means,” he said.

— On workforce development, the committee approved $12.5 million more than Evers originally proposed.

The motion, approved 11-4 along party lines, includes putting an additional $6 million over the biennium into career and technical education grants for school districts and a boost of $5.5 million for youth apprenticeship grants.

The final $1 million would go to grants that cover the cost of technical education equipment.

The committee’s motion also approved several of Evers’ plans, including $2 million over the biennium that’s earmarked for Marinette Marine to aid the shipbuilder in committee Co-chair John Nygren’s district.

The panel also approved Evers’ plan to dedicate $500,000 to a program that helps people with disabilities obtain work.

The motion also would expand an effort to place job centers in minimum- and medium-security prisons to prepare those now incarcerated for the workforce after their release.

And it includes expanding a youth summer jobs program to communities other than Milwaukee.

Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee, said he had no problem with expanding the program, but criticized Republicans for not adding money, which he said means less for his home city.

“If you’re going to extend it, then increase the pie,” Goyke said.

Read the motion:

— In other action, the committee:

*rejected Evers’ proposals to increase need-based grants for students at Wisconsin’s colleges, universities and tech schools, opting instead to keep funding at current levels.

*rejected a string of steps Gov. Tony Evers wanted to take to ease property tax limits on counties and municipalities. But the panel agreed to give them a little bit of relief for the costs they incur managing storm water.

See more on today’s action in the Budget Blog:

— The committee next week will take up funding for K-12 education, one of the key areas in building the budget.

Gov. Tony Evers proposed a $1.4 billion spending boost for public K-12 education, which GOP lawmakers have said was beyond what the state could afford. They have promised an increase, and the number Republicans pick will have a significant role in shaping the rest of the budget debate.

Before the committee dives into school aids, May 23, JFC will meet Tuesday with an agenda that includes:

Circuit Courts
Court of Appeals
Supreme Court
Judicial Commission
Budget Management and Compensation Reserves
Corrections — Departmentwide
Corrections — Adult Correctional Institutions
Corrections — Community Corrections

See the hearing notices:

— Vice President Pence touted the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade pact as a “win for Wisconsin dairy” during a stop in Eau Claire today.

In addition to leveling the playing field and prioritizing American jobs, farmers and manufacturers, Pence said the deal, which the White House is trying to get through Congress, would provide a boost for the country’s heartland.

“I truly do believe that with your support in the days ahead, with the USMCA passed into law, with President Donald Trump in the White House and with God’s help, we’re going to make Wisconsin and America more prosperous than ever before,” he told a crowd at J&D Manufacturing this afternoon.

Pence also thanked U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson for being “a champion for this new trade deal.”

He added the Oshkosh Republican has been “a strong supporter of this president.”

And he urged attendees to call on Dem U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and U.S. Rep. Ron Kind “to take a stand for the USMCA.”

“America’s manufacturers need to be heard,” he said. “American agriculture needs to be heard. And we need to hear from Wisconsin. We need to hear from the backbone of this American economy, the heartland of America.”

Pence said the proposed deal builds on the administration’s work building up the nation’s manufacturing economy. Those efforts, he said, were propelled through the lowering of taxes in the 2017 overhaul law and the rolling back of “excessive regulations.”

The USMCA, he said, builds on that foundation by “finally” allowing U.S. workers to compete and working to end “unfair trade practices.”

“We need the USMCA to keep prosperity growing in manufacturing, on the farm and all across Wisconsin,” he said.

See a video of Pence’s remarks:

— The state’s unemployment hit a record-low 2.8 percent in April, according to the latest federal numbers released by the state Department of Workforce Development.

That’s down slightly from March’s 2.9 percent unemployment rate.

DWD says 88,100 people were unemployed in April, which is the lowest that number has been since 1976 — the earliest year for which the agency has unemployment data.

Wisconsin’s unemployment rate was still below the national rate, which fell to 3.6 percent in April.

See the release:


June 13: luncheon: The future of transportation funding in Wisconsin

Transportation funding has become one of the key debating points in the two-year state budget making its way through the Legislature. Gov. Tony Evers proposed an 8-cent-a gallon increase in the gas tax plus while getting rid of the minimum markup on gasoline — something the administration said would more than wipe out the increase. Republicans have removed the minimum markup provision and left in the gas tax increase for now. Where will the debate lead and will it result in a long-term solution?

Hear details from some of the key players in the debate at a issues luncheon set for Thursday, June 13 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at UW-Milwaukee’s Waukesha campus just off I-94.

Panelists for the discussion: Wisconsin DOT Secretary Craig Thompson, Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow, state Rep. Debra Kolste, D-Janesville and a member of the Assembly Transportation Committee, and state Rep. Joe Sanfelippo, R-New Berlin and a member of the Assembly Transportation Committee. subscribers and members receive discounted pricing for WisPolitics luncheons of $20 per person, including lunch. Price for the general public is $25 per person, including lunch.

This event is sponsored by: Kapur & Associates, UW-Milwaukee, Wisconsin Academy of Global Education and Training, ELEVEN25 at Pabst, Milwaukee Police Association, The Firm Consulting, Medical College of Wisconsin and Spectrum.

The Waukesha County Business Alliance is an event partner.

For more information and registration, visit:



LRB-3279/1: Limiting the authority of the state and political subdivisions to regulate certain wireless facilities and authorizing political subdivisions to impose setback requirements for certain mobile service support structures. By Sens. LeMahieu, Hansen, Feyen, Johnson and Cowles and Reps. Kuglitsch, Fields, Neylon and Stuck.


AJR 45: Proclaiming September 7, 2019, as Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Appreciation Day. Referred to Committee on Rules.

Track bills for free:

Journal Sentinel: ‘When the heartland succeeds, America succeeds’: VP Pence pushes proposed new trade deal

AP: Wisconsin budget panel approves technical college increase

Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin sues OxyContin maker Purdue for deceptive marketing, downplaying addiction risk

WPR: When Candidates Want To Connect With Wisconsin Voters, They Turn To Beer

AP: Exact Sciences to return $61,000 in tax credits

State Journal: Wisconsin jobless rate hit record low 2.8% in April

AP: Wisconsin justices say county can order town to rename roads

Politico: De Blasio’s bungled rollout

Politico: Dems plan slice-and-dice strategy to pressure McConnell

Reuters: Trump says he hopes U.S. not going to war with Iran

Reuters: In nod to 2020, Trump pitches U.S. immigration overhaul

Washington Post: Top House Republican McCarthy says he opposes Alabama abortion law

Washington Post: Senate confirms Wendy Vitter as federal judge, despite Democrats’ objections over her opposition to abortion


– 7:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.: Madison Region Development and Diversity Summit. Featured speakers include: Gov. Tony Evers; Workforce Development Secretary Caleb Frostman; Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway; POLICOM President William Fruth; McPherson Strategies Director of Multicultural Strategy Paulita David, former head of multicultural at Google; and corporate inclusion advisor, educator and former NFL player Wade Davis.

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