Communities all over Wisconsin held their 4th of July
celebrations over the weekend and many people took off Monday for a four
day weekend. Independence Day is always a wonderful time of year and I
hope that you were able to get outside and celebrate it with your loved
ones. Here’s what you missed if you’re just coming back from vacation.
Since the 2017-19 state budget was introduced in the legislature in
February, every week brings a new idea on how to fund transportation in
Wisconsin. Last week’s idea was to create a new tax that would tax
trucking companies for every mile they drive on Wisconsin highways. This
new tax would add a new level of bureaucracy and costly state government
oversight to many small businesses in Wisconsin.
When people hear the term “trucking companies”, they think of big
companies with hundreds of semis; however, most of Wisconsin’s 15,820
trucking companies are small businesses with only a few
trucks. According to data collected by the Wisconsin Motor Carriers
Association and the American Transportation Research Institute, last
year Wisconsin trucking companies represented only 10 percent of the
vehicle miles traveled in Wisconsin but paid 38 percent of all taxes
owed by Wisconsin motorists.
The proposed 2.85 cent tax on a semi-truck that averages 7 miles a
gallon is equivalent to about a 20 cent fuel tax increase. The tax will
inevitably be passed down to the final consumer and make the things
people buy everyday more expensive: food, medicine, and everything else
that is transported by truck. The proposed Wisconsin price increase will
make our state less attractive for manufacturing and distribution
centers to do business in Wisconsin or to expand for businesses that are
already located here.
of taxing small businesses for using Wisconsin roads is a bad idea and
immediately joined four of my senate colleagues to oppose this “tax of
the week”. Given
our opposition, the idea has very little hope of passing the State
Through audits and spending cuts, the Wisconsin Department of
Transportation (DOT) is in a different place financially than it was
even seven months ago. I believe even more savings can be found in the
department. Raising taxes for DOT and other agencies isn’t the answer –
we need to find and utilize efficiencies. I remain committed to cutting
taxes in the 2017-2019 budget.
The 2017-19 biennial state budget is still in
the Joint Finance Committee (JFC). The committee still has
of the budget to take action on.
These areas include: Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer
Protection, Building Commission, Building Program, General Fund Taxes,
Department of Natural Resources, Office of the Public Defender,
Department of Public Instruction, Department of Revenue, School Levy Tax
Credit Funding Level, and Department of Transportation.
While JFC hasn’t met since June 15th, leadership in Senate
and Assembly continue to meet to iron out differences between the two
houses. The Senate Republican Caucus is in constant contact with the
Senate Majority Leader who continues to meet with leadership in the
Assembly. As I have stated throughout this budget process,
remembering everyone wants what’s best for Wisconsin and its citizens
gives me hope that the best 2017-19 state budget possible will be the
product of everyone’s hard work.
Walker Signs Senate Bill 77 into Law
Governor Walker recently signed much needed legislation that I authored
into law. 2017 Senate Bill 77, now known as 2017 Wisconsin Act 16,
puts Wisconsin insurance companies in the
same position as other out-of-state insurance companies. This law allows
their surplus lines insurance to be sold in Wisconsin. This legislation
is going to allow Wisconsin companies to hire more employees here
instead of moving to another state.
This commonsense legislation is a win for both insurers and those
consumers who need unique insurance rather than more commonly purchased
insurance policies like home or car. Surplus
lines insurance is a product that insures a specific risk like an
amusement park ride, a hole-in-one contest, or any other unique risk
that isn’t covered by the mainstream insurance marketplace. Surplus
lines insurers specialize in these unique risks, conduct specific
research to understand the exposure, and create products that are a good
fit for their customers.
This change in law lets Wisconsin insurers compete here, while
maintaining consumer and market protections.
Independence Day helped to put things in perspective for me and I hope
it did for you too. While there are small differences of political
opinion, we are all blessed to live in the greatest country on earth,