July 28, 2016
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Supporting our neighbors and being involved in our community is of the utmost importance. Some community events that might be of interest to you and your family are listed below.
Description: Enjoy beers from around the world at the second annual Milwaukee Brewfest on the city's lakefront. Milwaukee Brewfest features unlimited sampling of over 150 craft beers and micro brews from around the world, plus live musical performances, exhibits, home brewing demonstrations, and games. A variety of foods for purchase from local restaurants and vendors will also be available. CLICK HERE for more information, including ticket prices.
3000 S Howell Ave
Milwaukee, WI 53207
Jazz in the Park
Cathedral Square Park
520 E Wells St
Milwaukee, WI 53202
GermanFest features an extensive variety of traditional music, authentic
food, a cultural village, children's activities, and
much more. There will also be a home-brewed German beer competition and
For additional GermanFest information, please CLICK HERE.
Henry W. Maier Festival Park
200 N Harbor Dr, Milwaukee, WI 53202
200 N Harbor Dr, Milwaukee, WI 53202
Dear Wisconsin Neighbor,
Like many of you, I am proud to be raising my family in Wisconsin, and like many parents and caregivers, I want to provide my children with greater opportunities than I had.
I am betting that you also have hopes
and dreams for your own family -- whether it's that your spouse gets the
job they've always wanted, your child goes further than you in her
studies, or your sister is offered that promotion.
Sometimes, we face setbacks or challenges in achieving our goals. Our community and state should be there to keep you on your feet, and strengthen the Wisconsin spirit of resilience. Together, we all do better.
These quality of life issues aren't certain in today's Wisconsin and so we'll be covering them in this week's Larson Report.
|Building Strong Wisconsin Families|
Last week, I had the opportunity to
attend -- and host -- the Council of State Governments' Midwestern
Legislative Conference (MLC) Annual Meeting. This is a yearly
educational event for legislators representing the 11 states in this
region as well as four Canadian provinces.
During this year's
conference, Wisconsin Representative Joan Ballweg, who served as this
year's chair of MLC, chose to focus on policies that strengthen families
and improve child well-being as her chair's initiative.
I certainly learned a lot from my colleagues in other states and from the panelists that were present. I am confident that we can take the stories and successes that were shared and shape them into policies that will strengthen Wisconsin families.
As I begin reflecting on the wealth
of information provided at the Midwestern Legislative Conference, I
thought a good place to start would be to have this newsletter cover the
challenges facing Wisconsin families and some of the ways the Wisconsin
Legislature can bolster our families, ensuring greater prosperity and
opportunity for our communities.
That said, we will be discussing three major categories in this week's Larson Report:
Allowing our Children to Learn
Unfortunately, Wisconsin is among
the most expensive states for childcare, according to Child Care Aware
of America. With the average cost of infant care in Wisconsin priced at
$10,775, it is more expensive for your infant to be cared for during
the workday than it would be for them to attend a public college.
With costs this high, parents are sometimes forced to compromise the
quality of care their child is exposed to, the location of the childcare
center, or how many hours the child can be there each week. This can
jeopardize the future and stability of their family.
Expanding Early Education
For over 165 years, Wisconsin has had a tradition of supporting four-year-old kindergarten, as it is enshrined in Wisconsin's Constitution. In order to honor this deep legacy, we must invest in early education programs and make them universally available. One bill introduced last session would have invested in 4K more equitably than it is currently, allowing for a child who is enrolled in a full-time 4K program to be counted as full student for the purposes of state aid calculation.
Both making childcare more affordable for families as well as investing in pre-K programs would have enormous benefits on children and families, our economy, and our society as a whole.
Further, it is critical to note that Wisconsin's children of color face some of the most-crippling racial disparities in the nation. The good news is that implementing a universal high-quality, pre-K program has the potential to substantially narrow racial/ethnic disparities in academic readiness at kindergarten entry, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research.
Enhancing the Quality of
A study done by the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association (WECA) found that Wisconsin childcare workers made an average of $10 per hour. These low wages come with few benefits as well with only 30% of Wisconsin childcare workers receiving retirement benefits, and only 17% receiving health insurance through their employer. A study conducted by the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment found that nationally, 46% of childcare workers had to use some sort of public assistance just to make ends meet. Childcare workers are relied on to mold the children they care for into kind, generous, and curious individuals. We entrust them to care for our future generations, but their pay and benefits do not reflect their hard work. If these workers are not even able to support their own family, how can we possibly expect them to care for ours?
Low wages also result in a high turnover rate, which can negatively affect children. In Wisconsin, childcare providers have a yearly turnover rate of 30%, while their assistants have a turnover rate of 45%. Advocates for quality childcare have been working together locally to help improve the quality of childcare and early education provided to our children. The Wisconsin Early Childhood Association focuses on improving the professional development of childcare providers. One of their programs is the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood Scholarship program, which rewards childcare providers with an educational scholarship, and in turn the providers pledge to teach the following year, reducing the turnover rate.
Another program is called REWARD Wisconsin, which evaluates providers' education and length of service, and then rewards them with salary supplements. Those who have received supplements from the REWARD program have a turnover rate of less than 1%.
While these initiatives are a step in the right direction, they do not fully raise the income and benefit plans of child care providers. Statewide action must be called upon to ensure high quality care for our children.
Lifting Children Out of Poverty
and Reducing Income Inequality
Tax credits and other programs that
allow families to get into or remain in the middle class have been
brutally stripped away. In harsh contrast, under Walker's Manufacturing
and Agriculture Tax Credit, the top 11 wealthiest individuals in the
state, who are already earning more than $35 million a year, are set to
claim $21.5 million from the tax credit. These are tax breaks that are
handed out without the guarantee that a single job be created.
The irresponsible policies over the past several years have harmed families and have failed to alleviate poverty. In fact, Wisconsin's middle class is shrinking at a faster rate than any other state, and our poverty rates are seeing some of the highest levels of the last 30 years.
Similarly, Wisconsin is facing an
increasingly widening gap in income. One study found that while the top
1% of earners in Wisconsin have doubled their incomes since 1979, the
rest of the 99% have had their incomes decreased. In 2011, 15.7% of all
earned income in the state was at the hands (and wallets) of the top 1%.
While Wisconsin has had the Wisconsin Family Medical Leave Act in place for over 25 years, too many families are having to choose between taking time off to care for their loved one and making ends meet. That's why I was proud to co-sponsor legislation -- Senate Bill 385 and Assembly Bill 516 -- that would have created a Family Medical Leave Insurance program in Wisconsin. Under the program, an employee can set aside a portion of their paycheck that would go into a trust fund. In the event the employee needs time off due to an illness or because a loved one is sick they are able to take time off without worrying about whether or they are able to pay their bills. Our communities are stronger when we can look out for one another. This bill would give workers more flexibility to do that, and would not be cost-prohibitive to our businesses. It's a win-win for Wisconsin, but unfortunately it did not pass last session. I will support re-introducing this in January and hope for bipartisan support.
In addition to introducing legislation, my colleagues and I sent a letter to Governor Walker urging him to apply for a U.S. Department of Labor grant that would help states research, analyze, and develop paid family and medical leave programs in their state. On June 6, the governor failed to meet the deadline resulting in yet another missed opportunity to make Wisconsin families stronger.
I know this issue is important to my neighbors and I will continue efforts to expand Wisconsin's successful Family Medical Leave law.
Ensuring Quality Health Care
Unfortunately for Wisconsin children, however, our state has not utilized all of the tools available to make sure kids are insured. Other states are speeding by, and Wisconsin is looking smaller and smaller in the rearview mirror.
Governor Walker and legislative Republicans decided not to take advantage of federal support to strengthen our state's BadgerCare program. The result has been that tens of thousands of people have been dropped from Medicaid, including about 60,000 parents and 15,5000 children. When children go uninsured, they are at risk to a host of problems that could have been avoided if they had been insured. By strengthening BadgerCare, we would see more eligible parents. Covering parents is an effective way to make sure kids are also covered.
While the Affordable Care Act was a
good first step in addressing the issues with our health care industry
by scaling back the power of big, profit-motivated insurance companies,
Wisconsin is still not using all of the tools that are available to
reduce health care costs.
This bill would have changed the
status quo, making the insurance commissioner an active participant in
the game, rather than a passive spectator as is currently the case.
Unfortunately, the bill did not even receive a public hearing in its
to a new report by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, if insurers offer
"Low-Out-Of-Pocket" health plans in 2017 annual deductibles for doctor's
visits (primary or specialist), urgent care, and for all prescription
drugs would be $0.
My Democratic colleagues and I are committed to working toward a future that invests in our neighbors and creates family-supporting opportunities in our local communities. It is time to put an end to backroom favors for big-dollar donors and special interests and return to our state's traditional values of prioritizing and rewarding Wisconsin workers and their families. Doing so will create brighter futures for all of our children, give our neighbors more opportunities, and make our communities more prosperous.
I want to hear from you! Therefore, I created a 2016-2017 Neighborhood
Survey asking about various issues that are important to our community
and our state. Your input is greatly appreciated and will help me
prepare for session to resume in the coming months.
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