LARSON REPORT

NEWSLETTER

 

March 9, 2017

     

 

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.
 


51st Annual Shamrock Club of Wisconsin St. Patrick's Day Parade

Date: March 11, 2017, at Noon
Location: Milwaukee
Description:
The Shamrock Club of Wisconsin's 51st Annual St Patrickís Day Parade will take place on Saturday, March 11, 2017, stepping off at noon at 3rd and Wisconsin and finishing at Water and Highland. Join us for one of the best St Patrick's Day Parades in the country and the grandest parade in Wisconsin.
This FREE event will feature 140+ units and includes local politicians and celebrities, floats, bagpipe and marching bands and Irish and Celtic organizations.
For more information on the parade please visit the official parade website.

 

15th annual Local Farmer Open House
Date: Saturday March 11 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Location: Milwaukee
Description: Know your farmer. Know your food. This event is your once-a-year opportunity to talk with local farmers, hear about their growing practices, and learn about their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscription options. Sign up to get local deliveries of boxes of farm-fresh healthful produce and more. Explore the benefits of convenient Workplace CSA deliveries. Buy lunch, visit the resource table, or take a workshop. CLICK HERE to learn more.


Urban Ecology Center at Riverside Park

(MAP)
1500 E Park Pl, Milwaukee, WI 53211
 

 

Free Tax Assistance from UWM and AARP

Date: March 11, April 1 and 8 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Location: Milwaukee

Description:

For the 2nd year in a row UWM and the AARP are partnering on a tax assistance program. Trained student volunteers from UWM's Beta Alpha Psi accounting organization will sit down with you and help ensure you get all of the deductions and claims you deserve. All ages welcome. Walk-ins only. CLICK HERE to see a flyer with more information.


UWM Cambridge Commons

(MAP)

2323 Cambridge Gateway

Milwaukee, WI 53211

 


Partners in Fighting Crime: Citywide Block Watch Meeting

Date: Thursday, March 23 from 6:30 p.m. until 8 p.m
Location: South Milwaukee
Description:
This first meeting will go over the fundamentals of the block watch, take time to answer questions, and listen to concerns. Members will also take time to determine future meeting times and choose several citizens to help steer the group. CLICK HERE for more information.

South Milwaukee City Hall

(MAP)
2424 15th Avenue
South Milwaukee, WI 53172



A Polish Brunch
Date: Thursday, March 23, 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Location: Saint Francis
Description:
In Polish households, Easter breakfast was a main event as it signified the ending of the Lenten fast time. Inspired by the menu of those breakfasts, this easy brunch comes together very quickly. Join for this demonstration and enjoy samples of goat cheese and beet toast, kielbasa skillet and shredded beet and horseradish salad. Presented by Julie Seidlitz of Julie's Cooking Creations. For adults 18 and older.
Space is limited, so please register in advance for this free program by calling 414-481-7323.

St. Francis Public Library
(MAP)
4230 S Nicholson Ave
St Francis, WI 53235

 


Kohl's Art Generation Gallery: Paper Play: Kindergarten to Contemporary Art

Date: Ongoing -- the gallery is open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday until 8 p.m.

Location: Milwaukee

Description:
The Milwaukee Art Museum invites families to come and explore the innovative use of paper by contemporary artists, who use this humble material in simple ways --folding, weaving, cutting, and stacking -- to make extraordinary works of art. Families can explore the possibilities of paper by creating a sculpture, a colorful weaving, and a mysterious scene in four different activity stations. The Kohlís Art Generation Gallery brings art and creativity to kids and their families through family-friendly, hands-on activities.

CLICK HERE to learn more.


Milwaukee Art Museum

(MAP)
700 N. Art Museum Dr.
Milwaukee, WI 53202

 

Dear Wisconsin Neighbor,

 

Winter is coming to a close, and spring is just around the corner. The state budget process is also gearing up and community members, advocates, and legislators are starting to delve into the details of the over $70 billion spending and borrowing proposal.

 

In this week's Larson Report, we will discuss some of the provisions included in the budget and what the next steps of the process are.

 

In Service,



Chris Larson
State Senator, District 7
 

 

Chipping Away at Accountability and Transparency One Budget at a Time

It's been a little over a month since the governor unveiled his 2017-2019 state budget proposal. Like many across Wisconsin, my initial reaction to Walker's third state budget was focused more on what was left out than what it contained.

Here are a couple of main takeaways:

1.) This budget does not make up for the previous cuts Walker made to education and elsewhere, which have directly impacted our neighbors.

2.) The governor is using this budget to prop up his low approval rating in advance of an upcoming election.

It has been far too long since we had a governor and a budget that looked at building more than just political points for rich special interests. Wisconsin needs a long-term vision in our budget to ensure that educators, parents, and children can plan for education on a long-term basis. We need a comprehensive plan for building our workforce and must stop giving away hundreds of millions in tax breaks to companies that aren't required to create or keep jobs in Wisconsin. We also need to invest and grow our state by helping those struggling the most, not by giving away more handouts to those lucky enough to be politically connected to the governor.

Keep reading for other big changes in the governor's proposed budget that may be of interest to you.

Slashing Access to Local Healthy Foods
This past week, families, schools, and students celebrated National School Breakfast Week. This event serves as a reminder that school breakfast provides a crucial, healthy, and energizing start to the day for students.

Ensuring access for kids to healthy foods should be a shared Wisconsin value. In fact, eight years ago, Wisconsin pioneered a program that brings in locally grown food to public schools through creating a statewide farm-to-school program coordinator. After notable success within the program, Governor Scott Walker is proposing to get rid of the coordinator position for the very program that has been described as a "gold standard" and a "national model."

Not only is this program incredibly beneficial to our children through the advancement of a healthy lifestyle and a more diverse education, but it also assists farmers and boosts our local economies.

The statewide farm-to-school program focuses on three main areas:

  • Getting locally grown and produced food into school meals
  • Creating school gardens
  • Promoting agricultural education

According to Sarah Elliott, the former Wisconsin farm-to- school program coordinator, in her two years as the coordinator, she was able to invest $1.4 million in federal school lunch funding to local farmers. On top of the assistance the program provides for our farming neighbors, as a result of the recognized success of Wisconsin's program, we were able to bring the national farm-to-school conference to Madison last year, ultimately bringing in an additional $1 million into the local economy.

This is yet another unacceptable example of Governor Scott Walker blindly eliminating funding and decimating programs no matter the consequences it may have on our children, our workers, and our local economies. We need to continue this successful program, and the state Legislature needs to roll back Walker's attack on this.

Politicizing the Parole Commission There are around 2,800 inmates currently being held in Wisconsin's prisons who are eligible for
parole.

These individuals were sentenced prior to Wisconsin's "Truth In Sentencing" law, which is one of the most stringent of its kind in the country. Under the law, individuals are required to serve 100% of their sentence and its imposition can be for any offense.

Under "old law" sentencing practices, judges imposed longer sentences believing the inmate would subsequently be paroled. However, the number of inmates released on parole has decreased dramatically in recent years, from 1,146 in 2005 to 132 in 2012.

Under Walker, parole-eligible inmates are already being repeatedly denied the opportunity to become productive members of their communities.

Click here to read personal stories from inmates who are eligible for parole, many of whom committed crimes when they were in their teens or young 20s.

This adds a hefty cost to Wisconsin taxpayers as well. It costs $96 million each and every year to keep these individuals behind bars -- individuals who, because of their length of time served and accomplishments, work, and good behavior while incarcerated, could be back in their communities.

Instead of fixing our current parole system, the governor is instead attempting to irresponsibly politicize it. In his budget, Walker abolishes the Parole Commission, handing over the decision about whether the thousands of eligible individuals are able to be released to one single person who he would appoint. This proposal opens the door to an unfair, politically motivated system not seen in any other state. As noted by Cecelia Klingele, an assistant law professor at UW-Madison, no inmate is "entitled" to parole, but "they do have a legal right to fair assessment of their case."

For more on this issue, see this comprehensive article from Wisconsin Watch.

Pulling the Teeth of Government Watchdogs
In addition to stripping funding away from a popular local school food programs and politicizing the parole commission, Governor Walker also makes several moves to eliminate or reduce oversight boards, including:

  • Independent judicial reviews -- the governor's budget gets rid of independent judicial ethics enforcement process, handing over control of the Judicial Commission to the heavily partisan Supreme Court. Doing so gives justices the power to strip the commission of funding or staff. This creates a conflict of interest as the commission will not be able to fully investigate allegations against members of the Supreme Court for fear of retaliation. A similar proposal was introduced and rejected in the last Walker budget and drew strong bipartisan criticism. Click here to read an editorial in the Journal Times regarding this issue.
     
  • For-profit college oversight -- under Walker's budget, a state board charged with approving and overseeing for-profit colleges is eliminated. While the oversight responsibility is shifted to the Department of Safety and Professional Services, eliminating the Education Approval Board (EAB) itself a structure that incorporates individuals with expertise in the field. It also goes against the precedent being set nationally, where states are recognizing the need to protect students by increasing the scrutiny these schools are subject to. Notably, the EAB receives no public funding, and actually contributes 10% of the money it collects from colleges to the state's general fund, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
     
  • Employment disputes -- Walker also eliminates the independent Labor and Industry Review Commission (LIRC). Created in the 1970s, the role of LIRC is to provide a fair and impartial review of unemployment, worker's compensation, and equal rights decisions. Now, Walker is attempting to politicize this process by handing over its responsibilities to division heads within the Department of Workforce Development (DWD). This is problematic because on a number of occasions LIRC has overturned initial determinations made by the Department. In fact, I've heard from some of you who have run into issues with unemployment determinations made by DWD. In one case, DWD alleged that one of our neighbors in Oak Creek was concealing wages, even though after the error was realized their additional work hours were submitted. It was LIRC that later found that this person had made a good faith effort to correct the error and should not be penalized. This is not an isolated story, and politicizing LIRC will only make remediation of such issues virtually impossible, at a cost to our neighbors who are already just scraping by. For more on this, issue, read this Unemployment Insurance Blog post.

    You can also read this article in the Isthmus for more on the anti-worker changes made to our unemployment system since Walker took office.

Stay Tuned: Education and Transportation
The budget is a complex document that will continue to be discussed in great detail. This week, we've discussed several provisions that seek to politicize and reduce accountability and transparency in state government. Stay tuned for a future newsletter that will talk in more details about education and transportation in the budget. Until then, below you will find a brief summary.

Wisconsin Schools Still Waiting for Fair Investment
After years of intentional and harmful underfunding, our neighborhood schools continue to suffer under Walker and legislative Republicans. In his budget, Walker has attempted to shift the focus away from his historic cuts in order to boost his approval ratings, but Wisconsinites aren't buying it. Our children deserve to have schools that are able to fully address their needs. Walker and legislative Republicans have failed in this task and have instead focused on shifting more tax dollars to private unaccountable voucher schools. As the budget process continues, public education advocates should be wary of the intentions of the Joint Finance Committee and continue to put pressure on GOP members to fully fund our children's public education.

Budget Continues Transportation Mismanagement
It is no secret that under Governor Walker, the transportation budget has been woefully underfunded and mismanaged. Wisconsin is spending billions on mega-projects pushed by Walker's campaign contributors as our municipal and county roads fall deeper into disrepair; costing our neighbors' thousands in car repairs. In his proposed budget Walker continues to push these large expansion projects over our local infrastructure and has shifted the cost onto the next generation. Additionally, those projects closest to Milwaukee County are continuing to be delayed, keeping congestion and costs up. Further, under Walker's new budget, our neighbors would be paying a quarter of every dollar just to cover debt his budget fails to address. This is unacceptable.

Budget Process Refresher
On February 8, 2017, Governor Walker's 2017-2019 state budget was introduced as Senate Bill (SB) 30, and then was referred to the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee (JFC). This is just the first step in the budget process.

After the budget bill is formally introduced, the 16 JFC members gather information from state agencies, advocacy groups, and neighbors across Wisconsin. Typically in March or April, JFC will travel across the state so that members of the public can weigh in on the state budget proposal. This is an important opportunity for our neighbors to have their voices heard, which will be discussed in more detail in the "Take Action" section.

After gathering information, the committee will then make changes to the state budget by adopting amendments. This typically occurs from around April to June. Once the bill has been adapted by JFC, it is delivered to the Senate and Assembly to take up on the floor for a final vote. The final step is for the governor to accept or veto portions of the final bill before signing it into law.  

Click here to read a blog by the Wisconsin Budget Project for more information about the budget process.


 

Take Action: Milwaukee Budget Hearing

Given the significance of the 2017-2019 state budget, it is incredibly important to provide everyone in our local communities an opportunity to speak directly to their elected officials and engage in meaningful and productive dialogue. As mentioned previously, JFC members will be traveling to gather citizen input on the budget bill. Out of the past three Walker budgets, only one had a public hearing scheduled in Milwaukee. While tentative dates have been announced for the public hearings, the details and locations are not yet known. It is critical that our Milwaukee area neighbors are given a chance to provide their concerns and input.

TAKE ACTION:
Call the co-chairs of the Joint Finance Committee today and demand that one of the public hearings be held in Milwaukee! The information for the committee co-chairs is below.

Sen. Darling
Phone: 608-266-5830
Email: Sen.Darling@Legis.WI.Gov

Rep. Nygren

Phone: 608-266-2343
Email: Rep.Nygren@Legis.WI.Gov

Budget Listening Session with Rep. Sinicki and Rep. Brostoff
In order to gather input and hear concerns from neighbors about the budget and other state and community concerns, I will be holding a town hall meeting with Representatives Sinicki and Brostoff. Details are below.

Budget Listening Session
Date:
Monday, March 27, 2017
Time:
6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Location:
Cudahy Family Library
3500 Library Ave
Cudahy, WI 53110

Let us know you'll be there by connecting with us on Facebook. Don't forget to invite your friends, family, and neighbors, too!

 

In Case You Missed It
Each week, the Larson Report strives to provide up-to-date, in-depth information to its readers. Between editions, a lot happens in Madison and in our Wisconsin communities. I want to make sure you know the most pressing issues facing our neighborhoods across the state. Below are some of the top stories from the past couple of weeks:
  • Community Gets Involved in Public Safety Threat
    As discussed in the last Larson Report newsletter, alarming allegations have come to light regarding a barrel reconditioning company that operates in our community, called Mid-America Steel Drum Company.

    Last week, Rep. Sinicki and I hosted an informational session about these concerns to learn more from our neighbors about their observations and experiences. In addition, I held a listening session earlier this week in Oak Creek. I appreciate all of the neighbors that showed up to share your stories and concerns.

    The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently did a follow-up article that discusses the call for immediate action by Sen. Baldwin and Rep. Moore at the federal level and Sen. Taylor, Rep. Sinicki, Rep. Bowen, and me at the state level. You can read this follow-up article, here.
     
  • New Mayor in Oak Creek
    Congratulations to Daniel Bukiewicz who was recently appointed as the newest mayor of Oak Creek last Tuesday night.

    Mayor Bukiewicz served as alderman of the 2nd District on the Oak Creek Common Council since 2010. As of yesterday morning, he will serve as mayor of Oak Creek until the April 2018 election, filling the vacancy left by former Mayor Steve Scaffidi.

    I would like to wish Mayor Bukiewicz the best of luck and thank him for his willingness to step up and serve the people of Oak Creek. I look forward to working with him to make our community a great place to live, work, and raise a family.

    For more information about Mayor Bukiewicz, and how to contact him, click here.

     
  • Don't Leave Your Money on the Table!
    The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit are two refundable tax credits that often go unclaimed by those who are eligible.

    The EITC is a tax credit that is available for low-to-moderate income individuals and families. The Child Tax credit is available to individuals with children, who meet a certain income threshold, qualifying them for tax reductions.

    Based on the IRS estimates that 15-20% of eligible individuals don't apply for these tax refunds, our Milwaukee County neighbors, stand to miss out on $97 million in tax credits every year.

    While the EITC and Child Tax Credit are beneficial for working families, it also helps the growth of our own economy -- when families have extra money in their pockets, they are able to make purchases at local businesses.

    We must ensure that money is not being left on the table, but rather going back into the hands of the hardworking individuals in our community.

    If you need help finding free tax prep sites in your neighborhood, click here.

     
  • State of the City -- Milwaukee
    This week, in his "State of the City" address, Mayor Tom Barrett spoke about the renaissance Milwaukee is seeing through the investments being made by our diverse and industrious community.

    Contrary to the false narrative often spun by Governor Walker and legislative Republicans, Milwaukee has been -- and continues to be -- our state's economic and cultural engine.

    The wheels of progress continue to turn as the city partners with churches, industry, and community organizations to develop innovative ideas and programs to improve our lives.

    Under Walker, however, that progress is threatened. At the state level, Governor Walker and Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee have tied the hands of city government by diverting over $460 million in tax revenues generated in the city of Milwaukee to outside projects and programs.

    To accelerate growth and address the serious issues facing our neighbors, the state must return a more equitable share of tax revenue back to our city for reinvestment in our area.

    Click here to see the mayor's full speech, here.
     
  • Read Across America!
    Last week, millions of school children celebrate reading while participating in Read Across America!

    Established in 1998 by the National Educators Association, Read Across America is designed to get kids excited about reading.

    Read Across America Day is held every year on March 2, the birthday of the American children's author Dr. Seuss, who wrote over 40 children's books, including multiple best-sellers; most of which are still read by children and adults all over the world.

    Read more about Read Across America, here.

     
  • Warm Winters and Climate Change 
    Have you been enjoying the unseasonably warm temperatures over the last couple of weeks?

    A recent article in The Atlantic poses to its readers: should we enjoy the warm temperatures over the winter at a time when the damages of climate change are spreading throughout our local and global communities?

    Katherine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist at Texas Tech University, gave some of her insight. She stated that warm days might prepare people to notice other shifts in the weather. "As it gets warmer, the negative impacts outweigh the positive impacts," she said. "This will first look like hotter summers, pests moving northward, and our air-conditioning and water bill going up. Having these unusual days that we really notice, it makes us more aware of how other things are changing, too."

    I'd like to hear your thoughts. Does our warm February give you pause to consider the growing dangers of climate change?

    Read the referenced The Atlantic article, here.


 

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