LARSON REPORT

NEWSLETTER

 

July 28, 2016

     

 

CONTACT ME


Please feel free to contact me with any concerns or opinions you might have.

Office Phone: (608) 266-7505
Toll-free Phone: (800) 361-5487

Email:
Sen.Larson@legis.wi.gov

 

Mailing Address:

State Capitol
P.O. Box 7882
Madison, WI 53707

 

Website:

SenatorChrisLarson.com

 

Find Me on Facebook and Twitter:

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COMMUNITY EVENTS
 

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.

 

 

 

Milwaukee Brewfest
Date:
July 30 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Location: Milwaukee

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.

 


Film on the Hill -- Ferris Bueller's Day
Off (PG-13)
Date: Saturday, July 30 (film will begin shortly after sunset).
Location: Bay View
Description: Enjoy a family–friendly movie in Humboldt Park. Ferris Bueller's Day Off will be the first of three movies played at Humboldt Park this summer followed by Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Grease. This event is sponsored by the Bay View Neighborhood Association. The film will be played at the bandshell at Humboldt Park.
For more information, CLICK HERE.


Humboldt Park

(MAP)

3000 S Howell Ave Milwaukee, WI 53207

 

Jazz in the Park
Date: Thursdays, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. through September
Location: Milwaukee
Description: Jazz in the Park is a weekly event featuring a wide array of musicians that takes place in Milwaukee's Cathedral Square Park. Concerts will start at 6 p.m. on Thursdays, but people are encouraged to come socialize and enjoy happy hour beginning at 5 p.m. CLICK HERE for more information.
 

Cathedral Square Park

(MAP)

520 E Wells St

Milwaukee, WI 53202



National Night Out
Date: Thursday, August 4 from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m.
Location: Cudahy
Description: The Cudahy Police Department presents National Night Out celebration for 2016 on Thursday, August 4th. Over 50 organizations, food and refreshments available for purchase, along with the Cudahy Police, Fire and Department of Public Works will be on hand. CLICK HERE for more information.

City Parking Lot by the Cudahy Family Library (MAP)
3500 Library Ave.
Cudahy, WI 53110
 

 

GermanFest
Date: July 29 through July 31
Location: Milwaukee

Description: 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 nightly fireworks.  For additional GermanFest information, please CLICK HERE.
 

Henry W. Maier Festival Park

(MAP)

200 N Harbor Dr, Milwaukee, WI 53202



Irish Fest
Date: August 18 at 5 p.m. through August 21 at 10 p.m.

Location: Milwaukee
Description: Milwaukee's Irish festival offers an experience that can only be rivaled by visiting the Emerald Isle. Attendees can enjoy musical performances, traditional Irish dance, authentic cuisine, a dog show, Gaelic poetry readings, theater events, and more.   CLICK HERE for more information including an entertainment line-up and admission deals.

Henry W. Maier Festival Park

(MAP)

200 N Harbor Dr, Milwaukee, WI 53202







 

 

Dear Wisconsin Neighbor,

 
Hope you are having a great summer and are staying cool in the recent heat.

 

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.


To me, this means ensuring they have a quality education -- from pre-K to higher ed -- have access to the affordable health care they need, and make a wage that they can live off of when they are adults.
 

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.

 

In Service,



Chris Larson
State Senator, District 7

 

 

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.

The four-day conference featured a mix of expert speakers, professional development workshops, and policy sessions on issues of critical importance to our region.


 

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.

Earlier this year, Rep. Ballweg and Sen. Julie Lassa approached me to serve on their bipartisan Legislative Children's Caucus. I was happy to accept the invitation and to see that issues affecting children were going to be talked about at the conference.

Learn more about the Children's Caucus, here.

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.

See the MLC agenda for a full list of topics and speakers.

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.

Strengthening families is a broad idea that covers a wide range of issues and topics. Most everything we do at the Capitol impacts families and their well-being in one way or another. In this week's Larson Report we are going to touch on some of the basic needs of Wisconsin families, because in order for all of us to succeed we must ensure that we have equal opportunities and an economy that works for all of us, not just the wealthiest.

That said, we will be discussing three major categories in this week's Larson Report:

1.) Access to affordable childcare and early education
2.) Addressing stagnant wage and income inequality
3.) Ensuring healthy, productive families 

Allowing our Children to Learn and Grow
Rising childcare costs are a major concern for Wisconsin families. Most married parents are co-breadwinners with almost 70% of mothers and 90% of fathers with children under 18 in the workforce. Parents need a place for their young children to be cared for during the day.

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.

Wisconsin leaders must show our neighbors that we value their hard work and everything they do to provide for their families by addressing the high cost of childcare. Last session, a bill was introduced that would have created an income tax credit to help alleviate the cost of childcare. The bill did not pass the Republican-led Legislature. As a member of the Legislative Children's Caucus, I look forward to continuing to explore ways to address this burden on working families.

Expanding Early Education
There were a couple of key takeaways from the MLC conference, including that investing in early development offers the best return in our investment. In fact, for every $1 we invest in early childhood, we see $7 in savings. Full-time 4K can offer great, long-term benefits to children. According to the Human Capital Research Collaborative at the University of Minnesota, children in full-day preschool programs scored higher on school readiness indicators and had better attendance than did peers in part-time programs.

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 Childcare
The initial years of your son or daughter's life can have a significant and lasting impact on their future. In fact, 90% of a child's brain growth occurs by age five. This lays the foundation for the skills needed to succeed in school. Unfortunately, students who start behind in school usually stay behind. With 73% of kids under five enrolled in some sort of childcare it is absolutely imperative to ensure childcare is high quality. Even so, some children are not receiving high quality care, partly due to the low wages and high turnover rate of childcare workers.

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.

Learn more about the T.E.A.C.H scholarship, here.

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%.

Read about the REWARD program at by clicking here.

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
Even though the national economy has improved since the Great Recession, many Wisconsin families are not better financially. Between 2008 and 2014 poverty levels remained the same in Wisconsin, as measured by the Wisconsin Poverty Measure (WPM). This is partly due to the misplaced priorities of legislative Republicans, as they appear to be more focused on bolstering Wall Street, rather than Main Street.

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.

Passed in 2011, the Manufacturing and Agriculture Tax Credit has yet to boost employment in Wisconsin. In the two years after the tax credit was implemented, the number of manufacturing jobs in Wisconsin grew by 2.1%, the same dismal rate that it did prior to the tax. While Wisconsin's wealthiest are given handouts, Republican lawmakers have intentionally underfunded our neighborhood schools and expanded large highway projects while leaving our local roads crumbling.

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%.

Average Wisconsin families, in contrast, are struggling as our economy is increasingly centered on service industry employers, such as the food industry, hospitality, office administration and health care. The focus of state leaders should be on tackling these problems head-on. Unfortunately, our Republican leadership has remained stubbornly silent.

One way to support Wisconsin workers is to create an economy that works for everyone by ensuring minimum wage workers are actually making a wage they can live off of. For instance, Deidra, an advocate with Fight for 15 in Milwaukee, has worked at a local fast food restaurant for over 18 years. During those years, the only way she was able to raise her three children and survive an aggressive cancer was with the support of the community.

As a longtime employee, you would expect Deidra to be compensated fairly. But she is only making $8.60 an hour. Additionally, while in treatment for cancer, she was forced to take days off without pay. She wondered how she was going to put food on the table and keep a roof over her family's head.

When adjusted for inflation, today's real minimum wage value is about the same as what it was in the 1950s. Further, workers making the current minimum wage of $7.25 per hour only bring in $14,500 annually, despite working full-time. This puts the livelihood of real working families in jeopardy, not to mention that it's bad for the entire local economy.

My Democratic colleagues and I proposed Assembly Bill 264 last session, which would have raised our state's minimum wage to a livable wage of $15 by 2020 as well as tie the minimum wage to the inflation index.

This legislation would ensure fair wages for workers like Deidra, as well as give thousands of Wisconsinites the ability to achieve greater economic stability or help them gain access to a higher education. Every worker in the state deserves a fair wage and a chance for them to offer a better life for their families, free from the worry of having to choose between buying groceries or being able to go to the doctor.

These hardworking individuals are not looking to live extravagantly, but rather to be able to provide for their family without public help and to break the cycle of poverty for their children.

The benefits of increasing the minimum wage are vast. Ensuring a fair wage reduces poverty without jeopardizing employment, strengthens our local economy, lowers the demand for public assistance, and helps create a more stable community.

In contrast, low wages decrease employee morale, lower productivity, and stifles local economic growth.

While workers like Deidra, who despite working full-time are not able to live off of their wages, face challenges each day, these challenges are compounded when tragedy strikes. In the unfortunate event that you or a loved one is faced with a severe illness, having adequate time available to take care of yourself, your spouse, your parent, or your child is critical.

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.

You can make your voice heard by signing the Support Wisconsin Family Medical Leave Insurance petition.

Read an op-ed by the Senate author of the bill, here.

Ensuring Quality Health Care
For nearly two decades, Wisconsin was a national leader in the percentage of children with health insurance. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, more children in other parts of the country are now able to get routine doctor check-ups as the number of uninsured kids has nationally decreased.

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.

You can read more about Wisconsin losing it's national leadership in covering kids by reading this report by the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families.

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.

For these reasons, almost a year ago, my colleague Rep. Debra Kolste and I introduced a bill that would require Walker's insurance commissioner to ensure premium hikes are not excessive and unjustified.

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 Republican-controlled committee.

Further, Wisconsin insurers can play an important role in reducing health care costs for families. Last week, some of my Democratic colleagues and I sent letters  to Wisconsin health insurance companies to encourage them to review Healthcare.gov and to offer plans with low out-of-pocket costs to save consumers money on prescriptions and doctor visits.

According 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.

Potential reductions in deductibles for doctor visits would vary by region, but our neighbors in Milwaukee for instance would save around $3,702 per year per person.

Health care is an economic and family issue. Workers and parents need to be healthy to be productive at their jobs and to be attentive, caring parents. Our children have to be healthy in order to learn and do well in school. When discussing ways to improve the long-term outcomes of Wisconsin families, health care must be part of the conversation.

Learn more about the Citizen Action report, here.

View the letter my colleagues and I sent to Wisconsin insurers, here.

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.


 

Neighborhood Survey

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.

My staff and I will be working hard to deliver as many surveys door-to-door as possible during the next couple months. Additionally, I have also made this survey available online.

Click here to download and print a copy of this survey, which you can return to my office via mail, email, or fax upon completion.

Click here to take the survey online.

I look forward to hearing your views on these important issues! As always, please do not hesitate to contact me about any state or community matters important to you
 

 

To Subscribe to the weekly Larson Report, CLICK HERE.

To Unsubscribe from the weekly Larson Report Newsletter, please reply to this email with the word "Unsubscribe."