My, how time flies! Even though it is only early April, the 2015-2016 legislative session has come to a close. While the two houses may return to Madison briefly to deal with some menial house-keeping tasks, leadership has decided that the legislature has completed its work for the biennium. Members now head back to their districts and focus their attention on running for re-election this fall.
While we are disappointed that a few important issues were not debated or voted on before the curtain closed, overall, this was another session full of monumental accomplishments for the Wisconsin taxpayer and the future of our great state. Governor Walker, Speaker Vos, Chairperson Nygren, Majority Leader Fitzgerald and Chairperson Darling are all to be commended for their continuing efforts to make Wisconsin a state that once again cherishes fiscal prudence, the right of hardworking taxpayers to keep more of their own money and the right of our citizens to run their own lives.
The list of accomplishments is impressive. Defying the determined efforts of Big Labor by passing Right-to-Work without being forced into a union legislation this session will turn out to be another milestone in the turnaround of Wisconsin. Despite tremendous pressure to dramatically increase government spending and increase taxes to support this new spending, Walker and the legislature stood strong. For the sixth straight year, there have been no general tax increases and no new taxes created here in Wisconsin. That is an impressive accomplishment that deserves to be celebrated. Taxpayers rejoice!
The amount of money state government borrows is down significantly compared to recent budgets and that will make a better Wisconsin for our children and our grandchildren. Property taxes were once again frozen. Tuition to the UW was also frozen again, making it a little easier on parents and our children to get that degree they need to compete in the global economy. Parents all across Wisconsin, not just one corner of the state, were given more choices in deciding what education is best for their child. Entitlement programs were reformed to hopefully curtail persistent and significant fraud. The taxpayer extortion scheme known as prevailing wage was partially fixed, at least at the local level.
And all of this new progress comes on top of the news this spring that Act 10 has saved taxpayers over $5 billion since 2011. FIVE BILLION DOLLARS! Wisconsin is on a roll.
The legislative session has not been perfect by any means. Governor Walker and legislative leaders attempted to change the open records law to keep taxpayers in the dark about what is going on behind the scenes in Madison. Thankfully, the negative response from the public was instant and loud enough that they decided not follow through on their bad idea. Wisconsin government still employs the price police, whose only job is to keep Wisconsinites from getting a good deal or finding low prices. More and more of our fellow Wisconsinites are waking up to the consumer scam that is the minimum markup law and, as that happens, we are confident they will demand that their state government quit ripping them off. There was, once again, too much pork in the budget – over $34 million to be exact. Is the Confluence project in Eau Claire really of such statewide importance that all taxpayers across Wisconsin should help pay for it? Many of our conservative leaders decided that part of state government’s core mission was to help build a new arena for the Bucks. They were convinced it was a good idea because it was cheaper to keep them. Gee, sounds a little like too big to fail.
While there remains more to be done, this was another momentous legislative session in Wisconsin.
No New Taxes and No Increase in Existing Taxes: Despite the steady drumbeat to be fiscally reckless, Wisconsin’s 2015-2017 budget does not increase the income tax, the corporate tax or the sales tax. In fact, the budget has no new taxes. That includes no increases in current taxes or the creation of new kinds of taxes. Think about that for a moment. This is the third straight budget signed by Gov. Walker that did not raise taxes, and the fifth and sixth straight year of property tax relief.
All told since Walker took office, income taxes have been cut by $750 million.
All year long, the pressure came from both inside the Capitol building and outside of it, from Republicans and from Democrats, from legislators, bureaucrats, and special interest groups galore. And yet, despite the steady drumbeat to raise taxes and increase the size of government, Walker and the Joint Finance Committee resisted. Good on them.
More Property Tax Relief: Property taxes were cut more than $800 million since 2011. In fact, with the signing of this budget, Wisconsin will have its fifth and sixth straight year of substantial property tax relief.
An analysis by Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX) shows that total property taxes fell by 2.3 percent in 2014-15 and, astonishingly, property taxes as a percentage of personal income in Wisconsin are at their lowest level since 1946. Property taxes take up 3.6 percent of state income, down from 4.2 percent in 2010-11.
WISTAX attributes much of the decrease to the state’s $406 million “buy down” of the technical college levy in 2014 that was part of a $500 million tax cut package.
The 2016 and 2017 fiscal years will mark the fifth and sixth consecutive years of property tax cuts or freezes. This is a big contrast from the previous decade, where local property taxes were allowed to increase by $1.5 billion.
No New Gas Tax – Yet: Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb proposed a transportation budget that included massive amounts of new spending and taxation. It included more than $750 million in tax and fee increases and $1.36 billion in additional transportation spending. The new taxes and fees include a restructuring of the gas tax, an additional registration fee on hybrid vehicles, an increased tax on the purchase of new vehicles, and drawing funds from the state’s general fund.
Secretary Gottlieb said that the proposal would immediately increase the state’s gas tax to 35.9 cents starting on September 1st from its current level of 30.9 cents, a 16% increase. Diesel fuel would see an immediate increase to 40.9 cents from its current level of 30.9 cents, a 32% increase.
Thankfully, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) quickly put an end to Secretary Gottlieb’s tax increase proposal, saying that any gas tax increase would be a nonstarter in the Senate. No such gas tax increase was passed.
Rest assured, however, the push for a gas tax increase is not done. The special interests will be back this fall and early next year pressuring candidates and legislators to support a gas tax increase for the 2017-2019 budget.
If the Department of Transportation is interested in finding more money to spend on our infrastructure needs, maybe they should check out all the wasteful projects we found. Our favorite – the Bridge Too Near.
UW System Tuition Freeze:
Fixing the Marriage Penalty: The legislature also made progress toward fixing the “marriage penalty” for married joint-income tax filers by increasing their deduction amounts. Currently, single filers can claim a larger combined deduction than those filing jointly. This results in a penalty of sorts for married couples, who cannot claim as big a deduction on their taxes. While the budget made strides in improving the penalty for taxpayers, there is still more reform needed.
Needed Entitlement Reform: Entitlement reform was included in the budget as well. For the state’s Work Experience Programs, which offer transitional jobs services and benefits for poor adults looking to become self-sufficient, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) would be charged with administering drug screens and tests on certain participants.
Screening and testing is also required for the FoodShare program and the Unemployment Insurance program, the later being no stranger to fraud. Between 2008 and 2010, the amount of fraudulent payments in the system shot up from $21 million to $78 million. Drug screening, testing and treatment will not only to protect taxpayers against those trying to fraudulently use their tax money, but it also will help the people using the benefits.
Borrowing Down 67%, Lowest Level in Decades: Wisconsin’s borrowing levels have been brought under control under the new budget as well. Total bonding was decreased by 67 percent when compared to compared to the 2013-15 budget, a level we have not seen around here in decades.
This budget authorizes $652 million in new bonding. The previous budget bonded about $2 billion, and that was even low compared to former Gov. Jim Doyle’s last budget, which bonded $3.6 billion. To see such a quick reduction in state borrowing is a good sign for all taxpayers.
Reforming Prevailing Wage and Partially Ending the Extortion of Wisconsin Taxpayers By Big Labor: Conservatives wrestled conservatives in the battle to repeal the state’s prevailing wage law, which increases the cost of state and local building projects by mandating inflated wages. With disagreement among Republicans about whether to fully repeal the law, Sen. Frank Lasee (R-De Pere) was able to craft a compromise which partially repealed prevailing wage. The partial repeal meant that local governments are freed from meeting the expensive prevailing wage requirements, but the state is not. Some senators have said they will continue to pursue full repeal.
The compromise plan exempts all local governments and other local jurisdictions from adhering to the cost-inflating prevailing wage law, but maintains the wage requirements for state projects. Wage rates will be taken from the federal Davis-Bacon law, which sets rates for employees who work on federal projects. In addition, the plan won’t go into effect until 2017.
We wish that free market conservatives would have stood strong and let the market decide wages across the board, but we’re happy that the compromise will at least let taxpayers see more accurate wages at the local level, and that the legislation did away with some of the current bureaucracy that sets wages.
Expansion of Educational Choice for Wisconsin Parents: Under Gov. Walker’s budget, enrollment caps would be removed for each school choice program effective fiscal year 2018. However, there would be temporary limits on the amount of students a district can lose so as to minimize the losses of state funding the district will incur. Before the budget, the state had a cap of 1,000 students.
The removal of the cap is good considering the demand for school choice. A total of 2,415 students applied for the 2013-14 school year when the cap was set at 500 students. Just two years later, the number of applications has jumped 47 percent to 3,540 applications. The cap that year was 1,000 students.
Expansion of Charter Schools: The 2015-17 budget proposal also included the creation of a charter school authorizer board. This would allow for the expansion of independent “2R” charter schools statewide. Unlike the authorization system before the budget, these public charter schools operate independently of the local school board and teachers’ union – allowing for greater innovation.
Currently, only 23 independent charter schools operate in Wisconsin, and all but one are in Milwaukee.
The expansion is especially important because year after year the 2R charter schools in Milwaukee have outperformed their MPS charter and traditional public school peers. A statewide expansion would give yet another choice to parents when trying to find the best school for their children.
Freezing Tuition: While progressives’ solution to the problem of increasing student debt is more government programs and spending, the common-sense solution is to simply stop the skyrocketing cost of tuition in its tracks. One way Gov. Walker did that was through the 2015-2017 budget’s tuition freeze for undergraduates in the UW System. This adds to the previous two years’ tuition freeze. Contrary to the dire predictions of the UW’s impending doom, it turns out the UW System is surviving and indeed thriving despite the tuition freeze. Once the additional two-year freeze ends, the UW System will be given the authority to raise tuition as it sees fit.
Government Program to Gobble Up Private Land Survives: In Gov. Walker’s proposed budget, the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship program, – which borrows money in order to buy land and reserve it for public use – would have been frozen until a more sustainable debt ratio was reached. That made a lot of sense considering 70 percent of the Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) General Purpose Revenue budget is used to pay off the Stewardship debt, equaling $90 million a year.
Over the past decade, the Stewardship program has cost Wisconsinites approximately $540 million. The freeze also made sense considering the excessive amount of land the state owns. Currently, the DNR owns over 1.5 million acres, or about 1 in 5 acres in Wisconsin. Since the 1990s, the DNR has purchased 650,000 acres, roughly the size of Rhode Island.
Legislators, however, removed this provision and replaced it with a provision that requires the DNR to sell 10,000 acres and use the proceeds to pay down the Stewardship’s massive debt. As of February, the DNR approved 5,633 acres for sale. The DNR must finish selling the land by mid-2017. For the sake of Wisconsin’s taxpayers, we wish that legislators had been more vigilant and agreed to freeze the program, but this solution was better than nothing.
Finally a Plan to Save Milwaukee’s Children: The budget also included a bold plan introduced by Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) and JFC co-chair Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) to change the direction of some of Milwaukee’s lowest performing schools. The program, called the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program (OSPP), was created for Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) in which the Milwaukee County Executive was required to appoint a commissioner who will manage a type of recovery program for failing MPS schools.
In November 2015, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele appointed Mequon-Thiensville School Superintendent Demond Means to head up the OSPP. Despite Rep. Kooyenga and Sen. Darling’s bold move, Demond Means has said he will not close down any of the failing MPS schools within his program. Inso doing, Dr. Means leaves some of Milwaukee’s children trapped Milwaukee’s in 66 schools which cost half a billion dollars even though they “failed to meet expectations” on the State Report Card.
Attempts to Close the Open Records Law: For those who support government transparency and openness, the power of the Joint Committee on Finance became truly troubling when the committee tried to slip in troubling open records law exemptions for the legislature on the night before a holiday weekend, when almost no one was looking. Luckily, your friends at the MacIver Institute were there to keep you up to date. Groups from across the ideological spectrum blasted the move as a big step backward in government transparency. Thankfully, the Senate promptly took the open records provision out of the budget during their voting session.
Protection of Private Property Rights: Among various changes to private property rights that Rep. Adam Jarchow (R-Balsam Lake) proposed this session, one included in the budget makes it easier for Wisconsinites to manage their property.
Before the budget passed, nearly every level of government could make rules for how lakefront property had to be managed. One lake could have rules requiring 100 feet of water frontage per lot and a lake minutes away could require 300 feet. Now, each lake in the state has the same requirements for lot sizes. They have to be a minimum of 100 feet wide, a number based off of a previous DNR rule.
Right to Freedom Passes: Conservatives wrote the biggest story of 2015 when they finally extended to private sector employees the ability to choose whether to join a union or to remain independent. The legislature passed and Gov. Walker signed right-to-work legislation in May, making Wisconsin the 25th state to enact the law.
Right-to-work makes it illegal to force an individual to join a union or pay the associated fees as a condition of employment. With the new law in place, Wisconsin workers now have the freedom to choose whether or not they want to join a union and pay dues.
Since Gov. Walker has signed right-to-work legislation, a new report by the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research shows that opponents are incorrect when they that claim right to work laws increase income inequality. In fact, the study suggests that right-to-work laws do not affect income inequality either negatively or positively. Read the report here.
Ending Wisconsin’s Nuclear Moratorium (AB 384): Current regulations prevent new nuclear power plants from being built in Wisconsin. Assembly Bill 384 (AB 384) ended that moratorium, allowing for the new construction of nuclear power plants. With the law signed, Wisconsin once again has access to a cheap and efficient form of power.
Forcing the Government-owned Property Insurance Fund to Follow Same Standards as Private Insurers: In Gov. Walker’s proposed budget, he suggested eliminating a fund which provides property insurance to local units of government. The legislature, however, did not share Gov. Walker’s belief that it isn’t the business of state government to provide property insurance for local units of government, and so they removed this from the final budget.
The good news is that the attention brought to the fund led Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) to suggest reforming the program. At the time Rep. Nygren put forward his reform bill AB 584, the state’s property insurance was not subject to the same regulations that the private sector was. AB 584 took away the government’s advantage over the private market by making the fund subject to the same regulations as the private sector.
Defining What a Local ID Can Be Used For: One of two voter integrity bills, Senate Bill 533 (SB 533), will prohibit towns and counties from creating a photo identification card for any resident of the town or county, unless that identification card was to identify employees of the town or county. The bill also restricts the valid uses for locally produced IDs.
Electronic Voter Registration and the Elimination of Voter Registration By Special Interest Groups: Senate Bill 295 – now known as 2015 Wisconsin Act 261 – allows people to register to vote online. Among other provisions, it also eliminates Special Voter Registration Deputies (SRDs).
SRDs are individuals who can register people to vote, often doing this through events such as get out the vote drives. Since SRDs can be supplied by special interest groups, some are concerned that SRDs have the potential to influence how an individual will vote and inject special interest politics into voter registration. The MacIver Institute has written on the suspected abuses of the SRDs in the past, including the infamous ACORN case from 2008 in which an SRD was convicted for submitting multiple voter registrations under the same person’s name.
School Choice Skim Fix: As the MacIver Institute reported earlier this year, a questionable interpretation about how much public school districts can raise local property taxes to cover their “losses” from the expansion of the school choice program allowed more than a hundred school districts to net a profit from the program.
The 115 school districts that raised local property taxes more than the amount they lost to choice schools levied taxes by a total of $19.8 million statewide. According to a Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo, public schools skimmed $3.7 million more than the districts lost in state aid. Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) worked with Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon) to clear up the ambiguity. The proposed fix makes it clear that when a student transfers to a choice school, public schools can levy for the amount lost in state aid and no more.
Making it Easier for Experts to Teach in Wisconsin: To address a teacher shortage in certain subject areas, this legislation allows for people with industry experience to obtain a teacher’s license without having to complete repetitive schooling that will certify that they know how to do and teach the work they have been doing for years.
“This bill recognizes real world experiences and competencies that these professionals have learned working in the business world,” Brown Deer School Superintendent Dr. Deb Kerr said, when asked about the bill. “It provides a pathway that has a smoother transition into becoming a teacher in our classrooms.”
Forcing Schools to Post Accountability Results Online: Assembly Bill 722 – now known as 2015 Wisconsin Act 338 – addresses school accountability, making it easier for parents to access DPI accountability reports. AB 722 requires all schools that maintain a website to prominently display a link to that report on the school’s website. Schools would have to publish the accountability report within 30 days of the publishing of that report. AB 722 would affect all public schools, private schools participating in a parental choice program, and independent charter schools.
Walker’s State of the State Education Package: Gov. Scott Walker announced his desire to pass a new “education package” at the State of the State address back in January. The package included:
– Grants for Students Attending Technical Colleges (AB 740): Under this bill, the Wisconsin needs-based grant program would receive an additional $500,000 per year for two years. These grants would go towards Wisconsin students attending technical colleges. Gov. Walker signed AB 740 into law – it is now 2015 Wisconsin Act 281.
– Emergency Grants (AB 741): The University of Wisconsin will receive $130,000 that it can give as grants to students who have experienced a financial emergency – such as unexpected medical expenses – which may prevent them from finishing their degree. Gov. Walker signed this bill into law, making it 2015 Wisconsin Act 282.
– Hiring State and UW Internship Coordinators (AB 742): This bill provide funds for the creation of two internship coordination positions to be created within the Office of Skills Development at the Department of Workforce Development (DWD). The coordinators will help students acquire internships that help give them work experience and networking connections prior to graduating. AB 742 became 2015 Wisconsin Act 283 after Gov. Walker signed it into law.
– Financial Literacy Information (AB 744): This bill requires that colleges annually send students a letter with information about how much their education costs, how much money in students loans the student has incurred, and other financial information. As the last of Gov. Walker’s education package to make it through the legislature, AB 744 is now known as 2015 Wisconsin Act 284 after receiving the Governor’s signature.
Restraining the Growth of Government: Zero-based budgeting attempts to control government spending by changing the process of budget making. Under SB 407 – now known as 2015 Wisconsin Act 407 – state agencies are required to submit three proposed budgets during the creation of the state biennial budget. The first asks the agency to submit a budget with a 5 percent cut. The second assumes the agency will receive the same amount of money as the current budget, and the agency may request whatever they think is necessary for the last budget. Under current law, agencies only submit the last type of budget request.
Forcing Taxpayers to Pay for a Stadium Owned by Billionaires Employing Multimillionaires so the Multimillionaires Can Play a Game: In August, Gov. Walker signed the bill which provides taxpayer funding to help build the new Bucks’ stadium. The legislation requires $250 million in initial support from taxpayers. Including interest, however, the sum is estimated to go up to at least $400 million over the next 20 years. Both the state and Milwaukee County will need to provide $4 million on an annual basis to the Wisconsin Center District, which will contribute an additional $93 million towards the new arena.
In July, the Senate amended the bill to include a $2 surcharge on each ticket. One-quarter of that revenue will go to the state’s general fund. The rest of the ticket surcharge revenue will go to the Wisconsin Center District, which will use the funds to pay down its bonding. Estimates show that the surcharge will raise about $2 million a year. The City of Milwaukee will also contribute $47 million in the form of a parking structure and a tax incremental financing district.
Gov. Walker rallied legislators around the idea that it’s “cheaper to keep them,” saying that the Bucks attract tourists and money to the area, and without the state investment for the new stadium, we’d lose the Bucks and the bucks they bring.
As defenders of the free market, we have to ask: why is building a fancy stadium a responsibility of government that it does on the taxpayers’ dollar? If it’s really such a good investment, can’t they get private funders who believe in the idea to put up their own money? But alas, even so-called fiscal conservatives rallied around the flashy idea.
Walker Stops Obama’s Costly Power Plan Until Legal Challenges Are Settled: The executive order “prohibits state agencies, departments, boards, commissions, or any of their agents from developing or promoting the development of a state plan to comply with the 111(d) Rule,” the order states.
The 111(d) rule, also known as the Clean Power Plan, is a sweeping change to the Clean Air Act that vastly expands the power of federal bureaucrats at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and would impose tremendous costs on the economy, opponents contend.
Gov. Walker’s executive order is good news for Wisconsinites. Even with the legally ambiguous status of the CPP, some feared that states would develop costly plans and begin implementing them without the CPP mandating they do so. If that were to happen, Wisconsin taxpayers would have to pay more for their energy even if the Court eventually struck down the CPP. Gov. Walker’s order prevents this type of informal implementation from happening.
REINS Act: The REINS (Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny) Act creates an institutional speed bump to slow down the process of bureaucrats creating and implementing regulations that increase costs for Wisconsin taxpayers and businesses. Under the REINS Act, if an agency-created regulation costs $10 million or more, the agency must:
1. Submit a request for the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules (JCRAR) to introduce a bill to authorize the rule, or
2. Modify the proposed rule so that implementation and compliance costs are less than $10 million over a two-year period, or
3. Withdraw the proposed rule.
In addition, new public hearing and fiscal estimates would be required for proposed administrative rules over the $10 million threshold.
Sen. Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg), the legislation’s lead Senate author, said that if passed, the REINS Act “will help ensure that the public can hold legislators accountable for expensive bureaucratic mandates.”
“This bill is both common sense and substantial,” Rep. Adam Neylon (R-Pewaukee), the lead Assembly author, said. “It restores power to the legislature by disallowing state agencies to promulgate rules that have a cost of compliance for businesses that exceeds $10 million to be enacted without legislative support, and provides additional opportunities for public feedback on new proposed agency rules.”
Despite the fact that the REINS Act passed in the Assembly on a 60-33 vote, it never came up for a vote in the Senate. As MNS previously reported, three senators indicated they were leaning in favor of the bill, one refused to answer the question, and three did not respond to MNS’ multiple attempts to contact them. With just a couple Senators and one powerful lobbying firm against, it was enough to kill the bill.
Keeping School Referenda In Check: Sen. Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville) had proposed a bill which would have eliminated two common tactics school boards use to increase the likelihood a referendum will pass: holding referendums on low turnout elections and holding them on consecutive elections until they finally pass. If Stroebel’s bill had passed, school districts would have been limited to holding referendums during general elections in either the spring or fall, and if a referendum fails, the school district would have to wait two years before trying again.
Full Repeal of Prevailing Wage: While local municipalities are going to save money because they no longer have to abide by prevailing wage, no one is able to give a good reason for why the state shouldn’t get those savings too. We hope that sometime soon the state, and taxpayers across the state, will enjoy the same savings local governments get.
Ending the Sick Leave Benefit for Legislators: Current law gives sick leave benefits to legislators. The law allows provides that if a legislator does not use that sick leave, they are able to convert unused sick leave into post-retirement benefits, benefits like using them as credits towards paying their health insurance. Senate Bill 183 would have eliminated the sick leave benefits for senators and representatives.
As the MacIver Institute previously reported, members who are currently serving in the legislature have accrued over $2.4 million in sick leave. The number rises to $3.4 million when past members of the legislature are included.
Sacking Wisconsin’s Price Police: Under Wisconsin’s Unfair Sales Act – otherwise known as the minimum markup law – Brett Healy, president of the MacIver Institute, notes that “low prices are actually illegal here in Wisconsin thanks to our antiquated minimum markup law.” In addition to making it illegal to sell merchandise below cost, the law also requires specific price markups on items like alcohol, tobacco, and gasoline. The “minimum markup” can be as high as nine percent on these three goods.
Most other merchandise sold in Wisconsin, however, simply cannot be sold for lower than the retailer paid for the product. Despite overwhelming voter support for minimum markup’s repeal, no legislation was passed.
The MacIver Institute and four other free market organizations in Wisconsin recently sent a letter to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald asking for a public hearing on the minimum markup law. In that letter, the organizations write, “There are many reasons why people are growing more and more frustrated with government. Being ignored is near the top of the list. Clearly, this issue impacts all of Wisconsin and is one that Wisconsin’s citizens would like to see discussed.”
Regulating the Business Practices of Dentists: Assembly Bill 368 would have moved Dental Service Organizations (DSOs) under the regulatory purview of the Wisconsin Dentistry Examining Board. Americans for Tax Reform warned the legislature that this proposal would grant the Wisconsin Dentistry Examining Board onerous and unnecessary new regulatory powers. AB 368 will restrict the ability of dentists to practice efficiently and cost-effectively, harming consumers and taxpayers across the state.
In a Forbes column, Patrick Gleason noted that “[AB 368] would reduce access to dental care in the Badger State and drive up costs. It would be an uncharacteristic bill for Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled legislature to approve.” For a longer review of the issue, check out Patrick Gleason’s full column.
Penalties For a Business That Lies to Obtain an Economic Development Grant: Assembly Bill 669 would have created a criminal penalty for persons who intentionally defraud WEDC in order to obtain economic development benefits. If a person intentionally provides false information or fails to disclose a crucial event which would effect eligibility for such benefits, that person would become ineligible for further economic development benefits for seven years thereafter.
Greater Penalties If You Lie To Obtain Unemployment Benefits: Another in a set of anti-fraud bills passed this session, AB 533 increases the criminal penalties for a person who intentionally makes a false statement or representation in order to obtain unemployment insurance (UI) benefits. This legislation was created in response to an audit which discovered that, during the three-year audit period, the UI program had paid out $86.3 million in intentional fraud. The Senate author, Sen. Chris Kapenga (R-Brookfield), testified in front of the Assembly Committee on Public Benefit Reform arguing that the bill brings fraud penalty statutes in line with the rest of criminal law.
Despite the fact that it passed the Assembly on a 63-35 vote, AB 533 never made it to the Senate floor.
Many important and worthy pieces of legislation are now law, while other reforms that would’ve bolstered the free market sit collecting dust. Some bad legislation passed, and other bad legislation awaits another round of bargain hunting at the Capitol next year by the special interest groups.
Overall, Wisconsin taxpayers should thank Governor Walker and the legislature for a legislative session that will make our personal bottom line better andour family’s budget a little easier to manage. They had the strength to hold the line on taxes, to say no to the special interests pushing hundreds of millions more in new spending, and to keep Wisconsin moving forward.