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Wisconsin Paces Nation in Job Growth
On Thursday, the state Department of Workforce Development released the latest job figures for the month of June, showing a 9,500 increase in jobs compared to the previous month.  Nationwide, the net job gain for June was 18,000.  The state’s unemployment rate is at 7.6%, well below the national average of 9.2%.
 
Only about half of the states reported job gains in June: payrolls dropped in 24 states and gained in 26 states.  Wisconsin is clearly doing much better than average, both in terms of real job gains and the unemployment rate.
 
Wisconsin’s figure included nearly 13,000 private-sector jobs, the largest one-month gain since September 2003.  Wisconsin has added 39,300 jobs since Wisconsin was declared “Open for Business” in January Wisconsin legislative Republicans. Our state is on pace to reach our goal of 250,000 jobs by 2015.  Since January of 2011, the job base has gained back 20% of the jobs we lost since the recession began in September 2007
 
Reminder:
Ø      Wisconsin jumped 17 spots up the rankings of Business Friendly states by CEO magazine, the greatest increase in the magazine’s history
Ø      88% of CEOs surveyed by the WMC 2011 Economic Outlook say Wisconsin is on the right track. In 2010, just 10% said Wisconsin was on the right track.
Democrats Promise Change … Republicans Deliver It.
Fiscal responsibility, keeping our promises and slowing the unchecked growth of government are not things Republicans should have to apologize for.
 
Last week’s job gains show that Republican reforms are working, and that Republicans are delivering on the promises we made to Wisconsin.
 
The Democrats, on the other hand, have shifted into a permanent campaign model, and are trying to mine partisan gain out of everything they can:
Ø      Using unemployed workers as a way to play political games with unemployment compensation, choosing press conferences and press releases over actually working to pass an extension of unemployment benefits;
Ø      Criticizing the Legislature’s constitutional requirement to reapportion the districts;
Ø      Criticizing a budget that puts Wisconsin on the best financial footing in 15 years;
Ø      Criticizing collective bargaining reforms that are now appearing in state capitols and City Halls nationwide, even as they disappear from the Democrats’ campaign talking points
 
Republicans, meanwhile, are keeping the promises we made to Wisconsin:
Ø      Showing results with job creation throughout the state, well above the national trends;
Ø      Balancing the state budget without raising taxes;
Ø      Turning a $3 billion deficit into a surplus;
Ø      Real limits on property taxes, including the first permanent property tax cap in Wisconsin history;
Ø      Rooting out fraud, waste and abuse in state government;
Ø      Fulfilling our constitutional requirement for redistricting.
 
Unfortunately, it feels more and more like the day they fled the state, the Democrats shifted their focus from moving Wisconsin forward, to pursuing their own political gain.  This permanent campaign-and-litigation mode is not good for Wisconsin, but the Democrats are putting all their eggs into that basket – fight, bicker and throw mud at every opportunity, whether or not it’s good for the state as a whole.
State Repays PCF
Last week, the state announced a settlement to pay $234 million and replenish the state’s Patients Compensation Fund, which funds compensation for the victims of medical malpractice and their families. 
 
The original raid, four years ago, was $200 million, and an additional $33.7 million was added to cover interest and lost earnings.
 
Gov. Walker called the repayment a “huge step toward restoring confidence in our state’s ability to manage its finances.”
 
Part of the Republican effort to balance the state budget included a commitment to not raid funds and pay off our debts.  Not only did the Republican budget cut taxpayer borrowing by nearly 20% and balance the budget without the types of raids resorted to in the past, but Republicans have now paid off debts to both the patients compensation fund and the Minnesota reciprocity deficit.
 
Keeping our promises, paying our bills and balancing the budget: that’s the Republican agenda in Madison.
Unemployment Insurance Bill
Highlights:
Ø      Assembly Republicans have passed the UI extension bill and Senate Republicans are working to find a day to reconvene to pass it, optimistic it will be in the next few weeks.
Ø      The bill itself is an $89 million extension for unemployment compensation, raising the maximum length from 73 weeks to 86 weeks, affects between 23,000 - 40,000 workers.
 
Senate Bill 147 was authored to deal with a federally funded extension of unemployment benefits, and the full Senate considered the bill on Tuesday.  Had Senate Democrats truly been interested in getting the job done right, the bill could have sailed through the Senate, been passed by the Assembly the following day, and quickly put before Gov. Walker.
 
Instead, Senate Democrats offered an amendment (SA2) that was accepted on a bipartisan voice vote.  That amendment deleted a provision in the budget that instituted a one-week waiting period for new recipients of unemployment compensation, a standard policy in nearly 40 other states as well. 
 
The Assembly refused to concur with that amendment, sending the bill back to the Senate in its original form.  Then, like they have done all session, Senate Democrats used it as a political football during ongoing recall campaigns instead of working toward bipartisan passage.
 
The one-week waiting period takes effect on Jan. 1, 2012.  If the Democrats had offered the change as a bill instead of an amendment, this whole delay would have been avoided.
 
Sen. Miller was asked if Democrats would support the un-amended version of the bill, and he refused to answer.
 
So while Senate Democrats continue to hold press conferences and send out howling press releases, the state Senate Republicans are working to find a date to return and pass the extension.  Sen. Fitzgerald’s office is optimistic that it could come in the next few weeks.
Wisconsin GOP Reforms Keep Leading the Nation …
… And Working Throughout Wisconsin
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: School districts press to reach agreements
 
Appleton Post Crescent: Appleton Schools retains WEA Trust
The Appleton Area School District expects to save $3.1 million next year by retaining WEA Insurance Trust as its health insurance carrier… In a third round of bidding, WEA Trust took the unusual step of offering to match the lowest-quoted point-of-service option from Network… The result is $3.1 million in savings over current health insurance costs, she said.
 
The new agreement puts the district close to balancing its budget for the 2011-’12 school year, Superintendent Glenn Schlender said in a news release. The district had faced a $1.15 million budget shortfall.
 
Concessions received from the teachers association included a 50% contribution toward pensions, a 15% employee contribution toward health insurance premiums, an increase in health insurance deductibles and a reduction in post-employment benefits.
 
The agreement aims to avoid a layoff of 175 to 200 teachers, said Superintendent Kurt Wachholz. The district is required to give layoff notices by June 1.
 
The pact requires teachers to pay 10% toward health insurance premiums and higher deductibles and/or co-pays on a plan design change that saves 15% to 20% over the current plan. It requires them to pay into the Wisconsin Retirement System; reduces retirement benefits through a graduated retirement plan; and creates a district-developed employee handbook for all issues not addressed in the agreement.
 
It discontinues the practice of union dues being taken from employee paychecks. It also includes a 1% salary increase.
 
Switching from WEA Trust to Humana will save the district $1.3 million per year. Teachers will contribute 8% to 15% of the premium. The second year of the new contract also includes merit pay language and language to guide layoffs away from seniority, Marty said. By requiring teachers to pay their share of the retirement plan as of July 1, the district saved another $1.5 million per year, he said.
Related: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Column: Walker’s vindication on public education
Walker Signs Bill to End Early Release
Last week, Gov. Walker signed Senate Bill 57 into law, the bill to end Gov. Doyle’s Early Release Program.
 
Last budget, Democrats included a provision to repeal Truth-in-Sentencing, and release prisoners early.  The program took sentencing power away from judges and gave it to unelected bureaucrats, and undermined tough-on-crime efforts on crimes ranging from multiple drunk driving to arson.
 
The recidivism rate for the program in just the first 18 months was over 15%.  Examples of the 54 people who have committed crimes while released early include: OWI, Theft, Drug Use, Possession with Intent to Deliver, and Rape.
 
About 550 criminals were let out of jail early under this program.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Walker signs bill repealing early release
Around the Country
In Case You Missed It
Great Read of the Week
Forestry Committee Update
DNR Foresters administering State Lands Timber Sales:
 The July 1 windstorms in northwest Wisconsin impacted more than 100,000 acres, primarily in Burnett, Douglas and Washburn counties.  As you know, we bear an interest in public and private forests alike.  Providing for the timely salvage of these areas is in the best interest of the people of Wisconsin.  In order to facilitate this work, I am implementing a directive that would allow for logging contractors currently under contract on our State timber sales to shift their emphasis to salvage operations. In essence, "freezing the clock" on existing contracts for a period up to 1 year in cases where a contractor is focusing on salvage operations on other ownerships.  The Timber Sale handbook (page 73-1) provides for this potential on our DNR timber sales.
 
Existing DNR sales (with no damage)
For contractors who are shifting their operations to salvage work on other ownerships:
·         Contracts may be extended, without stumpage increase, for up to 1 year's time so long as the contractor can document the salvage work.  Such extensions shall not extend the total contract length beyond 5 years.
·         Complete a timber sale contract amendment (form 2400-5E) for the file and send a copy to Kathy Mather (FR/4) in Madison
·         Include a copy of this directive authorizing the amendment in the sale file
·         Document the name and location of the salvage work being done by the contractor
 Existing DNR sales with wind damage
·         Local administering forester, with approval of Property Manager, has discretion to adjust stumpage values for storm-damaged timber. 
·         This directive provides the necessary approval to amend the contracts (no need to file form 2460-7).  Document the amendment on Form 2400-5E and include in the sale file and also send a copy to Kathy Mather (FR/4) in Madison. 
·         Additional volumes / salvage shall be aligned with the Master Plan direction
·         Additional volumes or areas can be added to an existing sale without the requirement to advertise.  Statute 26.22 allows such modification when it is in the best interest of the State.
·         Add a column(s) on the Timber Sale Notice & Cutting Report (form 2460-001) for damaged timber.  Explain the circumstances in the Comments section of the form.  Consider combining species and using mixed product codes to streamline administrative procedures for damaged wood. 
·         Contract duration may be extended, without stumpage increase, for up to 1 year's time so long as the contractor can document they are working on salvage.  Such extensions shall not extend the total contract length beyond 5 years. 
·         Enter in the new information in the WisFIRS database
·         Reference is the Timber Sale Handbook - pages 73-1 & 73-2. 
 Salvage of State land timber - no prior timber sale
·         Follow normal salvage timber sale procedures in Timber Sale handbook.  Page 55-1 highlights expanded statutory authorities that allow for waiver of advertising requirement for such sales.  *In many cases, an abbreviated bid or verbal bid process might be in the State's best interest. 
 This directive pertains to DNR timber sales only.  Contracts on County Forests are at the discretion of the local County Forestry Committees and County Boards.  Please refer any inquiries into County policies to the appropriate County Forestry Office.
 
Thank you all for your collective efforts towards this large task.  We are working to facilitate the cleanup on many fronts including having discussions with industry to try an assure a market for this wood as well.  If you have specific timber sale procedural questions contact Jeff Barkley at 608-264-9217 or via e-mail.
Paul DeLong, Wisconsin Chief State Forester
Natural Resources Committee Update
The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board August 2011 agenda has been modified and is posted
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