LARSON REPORT

WEEKLY NEWSLETTER


 

 

June 27, 2013

     

 

















 

 

 

 


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

 

Web Site:

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. 
 

 

MIAD 2013 Juried Senior Exhibition

Date: Now through Sat., July 27

Location: Milwaukee

Description: If you missed the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design's renowned annual senior exhibition, stop by to see faculty-juried works from all majors in the 2013 Juried Senior Exhibition. This event is being held in MIAD's Frederick Layton Gallery. CLICK HERE or call (414) 291-8070 for more information.

Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MAP)
273 E. Erie Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202

 

The Milwaukee Art Museum Presents: 30 Americans

Date: Now through Sun., September 8

Location: Milwaukee

Description: 30 Americans is a dynamic exploration of contemporary American art. Paintings, sculptures, installations, photographs, video, and more made by African American artists since 1970 raise questions of what it means to be a contemporary artist and an African American today. Whether addressing issues of race, gender, sexuality, politics, or history--or seemingly remaining silent about them--these works offer powerful interpretations of cultural identity and artistic legacy. CLICK HERE or call (414) 224-3200 for more information.

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

 

Lunar Light
Date: Now through Fri., July 19 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Location: Milwaukee

Description: Lunar Light focuses on our Moon, which has captivated our imagination enough to explore it with humans and machines. The live presentation will highlight Earth-Moon-Sun interactions that result in dramatic events such as lunar and solar eclipses, ocean tides, and different phases of the Moon. The presentation will include Greek myths associated with the Moon. As always, there is a portion of the program that focuses on stars and constellations projected on the dome to simulate both a city and country sky. Please note there is no show on July 5. CLICK HERE for more information.

 

UW-Milwaukee (MAP)

Manfred Olson Planetarium

1900 East Kenwood Blvd.

Milwaukee, WI

 

 

Lake Park Concert

Date: Mon., July 1 from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Location: Milwaukee

Description: "Musical Monday" begins its 16th season on July 1 with a performance by the Big Top Brass Band. Under the baton of Dr. Nicholas J. Contorno of Marquette University, the Big Top Brass will present the music of America. The concert will go on, rain or shine. Musical Monday concerts begin at 6:30 p.m. and wrap-up at 8 p.m. These concerts are free and open to the public. All concerts take place at the Lake Park Summer Stage in Lake Park Picnic Area #3, just south of the playground and tennis courts. For a convenient dinner option, check out Good Food Dude, a Milwaukee food truck that plans to be on site during the 2013 Musical Mondays and Wonderful Wednesdays performing season. They will also provide cold (and hot) beverage options. CLICK HERE for more information.

 

Lake Park (MAP)

3233 E. Kenwood Blvd.

Milwaukee, WI 53211

 

 

Starry Nights Orchestra
Date: Tues., July 2 at 7 p.m.

Location: Milwaukee

Description: The Marcus Center presents the Starry Nights Orchestra with the Florentine Opera Company and the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra. This free patriotic Americana program, a unique collaboration between the Marcus Center and the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center, is a wonderful way to start your 4th of July weekend. CLICK HERE or call (414) 273-7206 for more information.

Marcus Center for the Performing Arts (MAP)
929 N. Water Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202
 

 

Bastille Days
Date: Thurs., July 11 through Sun., July 14
Location: Milwaukee
Description: Bastille Days, Milwaukee's popular French festival and one of the nation's largest French-themed celebrations, returns to downtown Milwaukee's Cathedral Square Park, July 11�14. The free, four-day bash attracts over 250,000 visitors annually who enjoy live music, an international marketplace, chef and wine demos, French and Cajun cuisine, roaming busker entertainment, and a signature 43-foot Eiffel Tower replica offering hourly light shows. CLICK HERE for more information.

Cathedral Square Park (MAP)
520 E. Wells Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202

 

 

South Shore Frolic
Date: Fri., July 12 through Sun., July 15
Location: Bay View
Description: Stop by the 64th annual South Shore Frolics. This three-day festival will feature a Friday fish fry, music all three days, a car show, games, food, a parade, and fireworks. CLICK HERE for more information.

South Shore Park (MAP)
2900 South Shore Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53207

 

 

Dear Friend,

 

Despite bipartisan opposition in both legislative houses, the extreme budget passed and will go into effect on Monday, July 1, pending the governor's signature. Continue reading for a breakdown of the concerning budget provisions in such areas as job creation, education, health care, taxes, natural resources, and much more.


Sincerely,

Chris Larson
State Senator, District 7

 

 

Extreme, Backwards Republican Budget Passes

The Legislature took up the controversial Republican budget last week, with the Assembly meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday before passing it off to the Senate on Thursday. This budget saw bipartisan opposition in both the Assembly and Senate as it came before the full Legislature for a vote. Despite this opposition, it passed through the Assembly on June 19, 2013, with a 55-42 vote. It then passed through the Senate, by the narrowest possible margin, on June 21, 2013.

 

 

Click here or on the video player above to watch the Senate budget debate on WisconsinEye.

 

This is not the path that will allow Wisconsin to grow from 44th in the nation in job growth, therefore, I voted against the budget. The budget will now go to Governor Walker where I hope he will use his authority to veto some of the many harmful provisions of the 2013-15 state budget. Continue reading for a list of the particularly harmful provisions contained in the most recent, extreme budget.
 

JOBS & ECONOMY

While many other states are starting to see improvement in their overall economic health, Wisconsin continues to lag behind. Statistic after statistic shows Wisconsin among the bottom states for economic growth. Below is a summary of where Wisconsin ranks with regard to job creation and economic development:

  • Wisconsin ranks 42nd as best state for business. (Forbes Magazine's Annual "Best States for Business" rankings, December 2012)

  • Wisconsin ranks 44th in the nation in job growth. (Bureau of Labor Statistics--Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, 3rd Quarter 2012)

  • Wisconsin ranks 45th in wage growth. (Bureau of Labor Statistics--Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, 3rd Quarter 2012)

  • Wisconsin ranks 49th in economic outlook. (Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia leading index report, April 2013)

  • Wisconsin will be 49th in job growth through 2016. (Forbes Magazine's Annual "Best States for Business" rankings, December 2012)

  • Wisconsin ranks 50th in short-term job growth. (U.S. Chamber of Commerce "Enterprising States" Study, April 2013)

Given that legislative Republicans have routinely chosen to prioritize tea party politics and tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations over areas proven to create jobs, such as education, job training, and public transit, it is no wonder we are floundering. Unfortunately, the Republican budget simply expanded the unsuccessful policies of last session, which we know are not the cure for Wisconsin's lagging job creation, falling wages, and growing skills gap.

 

Rather than ensure our technical colleges have the necessary tools to provide future generations of Wisconsin workers with the skills needed to compete in a 21st century economy, the budget failed to restore the $67 million worth of cuts from the previous budget. The same trend was seen in our K-12 schools and universities, all of which are crucial in worker training and job creation. My colleagues and I introduced an amendment to provide greater financial aid support to prospective students, however, this amendment was rejected by Republicans.

 

This is not the only way the Republican budget failed Wisconsinites. Wisconsin's job creation agency, WEDC, has been mired by controversy including authorizing illegal loans and tax credits, losing track of millions of dollars in loans, and spending taxpayer money on such questionable items as alcohol and iTunes gift cards. Such problems have made it impossible for this public-private agency to fulfill its promise--to create jobs and increase economic development--to Wisconsin and its taxpayers. This budget did little to remedy the problems at WEDC by failing to providing enough oversight for this troubled agency, while still increasing their funding over the biennium. Without these improvements and investments, Wisconsin will continue to fall behind in future rankings.

 

EDUCATION

The greatest harm to educational opportunities came true when legislative Republicans voted to approve statewide voucher expansion, thus increasing property taxes. Those of us residing in Milwaukee and Racine counties are already familiar with the damage our children, property taxes, and communities suffer as a result of expanding unaccountable voucher schools. Over the past 20 years, we have spent $1.5 billion on a voucher experiment that has failed the students of Milwaukee and Racine. In fact, study after study has confirmed that voucher school students fare no better and often worse than their public school counterparts. Unfortunately, rather than learning from the mistakes of Milwaukee and Racine's voucher programs, Republicans have instead decided to take the rest of the state down with this sinking ship.

Budget Expands Vouchers Statewide and Much More
The version that Senate and Assembly Republicans passed is even more extreme than Governor Walker's original voucher proposal, as it expands the voucher program to all 424 school districts, while the governor's would have only expanded it to nine new school districts. Further, while the program will be capped at 500 students in the 2013-14 school year and 1,000 students in the 2014-15 school year, Wisconsinites are smart enough to see through this arbitrary limit. This cap is clearly temporary and will likely be increased with future legislation and through budgets down the road. In fact, a Republican amendment that was adopted and remains in the budget already offers a way around the cap. Currently, there are no caps on private voucher schools in Milwaukee and Racine. According to the adopted amendment, if a school there were to set up a so-called "satellite" school elsewhere in Wisconsin, it might be exempt from the statewide enrollment caps.

This is not the only startling voucher-related proposal that made its way into the Republican budget. They also approved an astronomical increase of as much as $1,414 in additional per pupil spending for students in the voucher program. Meanwhile, our local public schools will only receive an additional $100 per pupil annually, which is not nearly enough to make up for the historic $1.6 billion in cuts contained in the 2011-2013 Republican budget. As a result, our public schools will continue to be institutions where teachers are tasked with managing 30, 35, or 40 kids in one class, where the art rooms are always dark, where the textbooks are out-of-date and falling apart, and where they keep a piano in the cafeteria because the part-time music teacher no longer has a classroom.

Unfortunately, while the voucher program will now be receiving more taxpayer dollars, it will not see an increase in accountability or transparency measures. Democratic JFC members introduced the following amendments to increase accountability and transparency, all of which were rejected by Republican committee members:

  • DPI Report Card System--Require voucher schools to provide the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) with needed data

  • Reading Assessment--Require all schools receiving taxpayer dollars, including voucher schools, to administer the same reading assessment test to better compare students

  • Teacher Licensure--Require all teachers in a voucher school to be licensed by DPI

  • Background Checks--Require all voucher schools to conduct background checks on all staff and prohibit a private school in the voucher program from employing an individual convicted of certain class felonies, such as sex offenses specified in Wis. Stats. 115.31

  • Open Records Law--Require that voucher schools are subject to Wisconsin's Open Records Law
    Special Education Staff--Require voucher schools to employ special education teachers or therapists if pupils needing such services attend the voucher school

  • Corporal Punishment--Require that current laws governing corporal punishment in public schools apply to voucher schools

  • Graduation Credits and Standards--Require voucher schools to conform with graduation requirements that apply to public schools

  • Due Process Procedure for Expulsion--Require a due process procedure, like public schools use, when determining expulsion at a voucher school

These were not the only common sense amendments to be rejected. Senate Democrats also put forward amendments on the floor that would do the following:

  • Eliminate voucher expansion and remove the unfair tax deduction for private school tuition

  • Require a referendum on the voucher program in each community before expanding

  • Increase accountability and transparency in the existing voucher program

  • Provide adequate funding for our local public schools by increasing per pupil funding by $275 annually

  • Support students with special needs by providing additional funding for such programs

Republicans also pounced on the opportunity to ensure that if our public schools get dollars, so do unaccountable voucher schools. Their adopted proposal specifies that starting in the next state budget, increases for public schools and voucher schools will be linked. Thus, if one receives a $100-per-student increase, the other would as well.

Further, as our public school students and their parents continue to be penalized by having to support two separate and unequal school districts, the parents of private school students will be rewarded in this budget with a tax break totaling $30 million in the 2014-2015 school year for an annual per student deduction of up to $10,000. This provision clearly seeks to further accelerate the privatization of our K-12 schools.

Study After Study Confirms Voucher Failure
Yet another study was recently released factually proving that voucher students fare no better and often worse than their public school counterparts. The study, released by the American Educational Research Journal and the Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, has conclusions that are nothing short of shocking. Below are the findings:

  • Students leaving voucher schools are the same children the program was designed to help. While the voucher program was created to give poorer, low-achieving students the opportunity for a better education, most of the children leaving voucher schools and returning to public schools are these poorer, low-achieving students. Such data reinforces that the voucher program is failing the very kids it was supposed to help.

  • Most students who transfer from the voucher program back into public schools realize significant achievement gains after doing so. Such achievement growth is even more significant for low-performing students. This statistic highlights that students who return to MPS truly do better once they are back in public school.

  • Voucher schools are less likely to identify and assist students who require special education. This means that children needing greater assistance are left behind.

  • Parental dissatisfaction was the most common reason cited by parents for students leaving the voucher program. Next in line was inadequate handling of special needs students. Such results verify that voucher schools do not always live up to the hype they have created and are frequently found to be a worse option for our children than traditional public schools.

Click here to access the voucher study mentioned.


In addition to this study, data recently collected by DPI shows a snapshot of just how voucher school students are performing compared to their public school counterparts. This data analyzes how all voucher and public school students in 4th, 8th and 10th grade performed in reading, math, and science during the 2010-2011 school year. According to the data, Milwaukee Public School students outperformed voucher students in eight out of nine categories.

Voucher Schools Raise Property Taxes
In 2010, state law compelled Milwaukee Public Schools to levy over $50 million in taxes to subsidize the private and religious schools making up the unaccountable voucher program, which amounts to 17% of the total Milwaukee Public Schools tax levy. Due to policy changes in the last Republican budget, the cost of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program (MPCP) rose significantly, exceeding the state's official 2012 estimate and increasing the financial responsibility of taxpayers to 22.6% of the total Milwaukee Public Schools tax levy.

In truth, Milwaukee taxpayers are now being billed for both the largest school district in the state, Milwaukee Public Schools, AND the fourth largest, which is what the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program has grown to be with 22,400 students. The tax levy for the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program already exceeds the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District by nearly $10 million and is expected to exceed Milwaukee Area Technical College's in the next few years. With the expansion of vouchers statewide this is a consequence that will now be endured by all Wisconsin communities. While my Milwaukee colleagues and I were able to successfully achieve some transparency by providing separate cost information for MPS and MPCP schools on Milwaukee property tax bills, such transparency does not exist in the other 423 school districts.

It is important to note that there are private schools in our community that provide a positive educational experience to families interested in receiving a faith-based education. Unfortunately, it is impossible to weed out the bad from the good without the necessary transparency measures in place. As it stands, the voucher program remains unaccountable. Our children and Wisconsin's property taxpayers cannot afford to support the bad, unaccountable institutions that have failed our children and taken advantage of the voucher program. If we continue down this path, it is not only Wisconsin's future workers that will suffer, but also our state. Our children's success or failure dictates whether we succeed or fail.

 

HEALTH CARE

A key component of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the opportunity to receive more funding from the federal government to strengthen our BadgerCare program by filling the gaps in coverage. In fact, the federal government offers 100% of the funding needed to fill the coverage gap for the first three years and at least 90% in subsequent years. In February, the governor announced he would reject the ACA's recommended path to pursue his own Medicaid plan, which will cost the state more taxpayer money to cover fewer Wisconsinites.

 

The Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee (JFC) had an opportunity to set Wisconsin back on the right track when it took up this portion of the state budget on June 4, 2013. Instead, they approved most of the governor's plan in a 12-4 vote. Senate Democrats introduced several amendments on the floor to the 2013-15 state budget pertaining to Medicaid funding including an amendment to accept the full Medicaid expansion funding. This amendment was rejected by the Republican majority.

It defies logic that extreme legislative Republicans would choose to reject the opportunity to expand health care coverage to nearly 85,000 more Wisconsinites, save the state $119 million over the biennium, and create approximately 10,500 new jobs for a state that is lagging behind the rest of the nation. This refusal to truly strengthen BadgerCare for Wisconsin's working families is an attack on the growth and security of our middle class. Republicans have again made the wrong decision for Wisconsin families. Instead of responsibly covering more Wisconsinites, some neighbors will now lose BadgerCare coverage and be pushed into an exchange that is not designed for their income level. This will likely leave them with premiums, co-pays, and deductibles they are unable to afford. For example, a family of two making between $15,510 and $20,628 annually would be required to pay up to $4,000 a year out-of-pocket, plus premiums. Families unable to make that payment will be left uninsured and using emergency rooms with the costs shifted on to taxpayers.

In addition to rejecting federal dollars, we also saw Republicans throw $73 million in taxpayer dollars to hospitals (who supported taking federal dollars for BadgerCare) to cover increased costs associated with those who will no longer be insured under the Republican proposal. This is essentially a $73 million admission that their refusal to accept federal funding to strengthen BadgerCare is going to result in thousands of Wisconsin residents being forced to rely on hospital emergency rooms rather than a primary care provider for health services. As a result, Wisconsin taxpayers will now not only be responsible to pay for other states to take advantage of available health care dollars, but we will also have to pay an additional $73 million. No matter how you do the math, it is immoral to pay more to insure fewer people.

 

TAXES & SPENDING

The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau looked into the Republican tax plan passed in the budget further to see just who would benefit and to what extent. According to their analysis, which has also been widely reported in the media, more than 54% of the proposed tax break would go to taxpayers making more than $100,000 a year. Therefore, unlike those making six-figure salaries, the average Wisconsin family will not see the same benefits.

For example, under this tax plan, the average married couple in Wisconsin with an adjusted gross income between $50,000 and $60,000 will receive a tax break of roughly 29 cents each day during the 2014 tax year. On the other hand, married taxpayers making more than $300,000 a year will receive an average tax break of $1,524 over the same time frame. It is clear that this tax plan is meant to unfairly benefit the wealthy over average Wisconsinites. This income tax break is also a shiny distraction to prevent Wisconsinites from seeing that property taxes for the average Wisconsinite will be increasing at the same time by $29 annually.

The budget process can be complicated and ensuring it reflects Wisconsin's shared values is crucial. That said, this plan poses the fundamental question: What are we giving up to achieve this tax break? The answer to this is pretty simple. This Republican tax plan was built on the backs of our children. In the last budget, general school aids were cut by $793 million. Instead of restoring these record cuts, Republicans have chosen to give $651 million of these funds away in tax breaks overwhelmingly for the wealthy.

Senate Democrats offered several amendments to ensure a true middle-class tax cut. Unfortunately, all of the following amendments were rejected by Senate Republicans:

  • Property Tax Cut Amendment (Amendment 15): An amendment to decrease property taxes by an average of $77

  • Middle-Class Income Tax Cut Amendment (Amendment 16): An amendment to decrease the income tax rate for just the lowest tax bracket to ensure a more fair tax cut

  • Earned Income Tax Credit Amendment (Amendment 18): An amendment which sought to restore the cuts to EITC that occurred in the 2011-13 state budget

Expanding the unsuccessful policies of last session is not the cure for Wisconsin's lagging job creation, falling wages, and growing skills gap. To move Wisconsin forward, we must take a balanced approach to ensure our schools have the necessary tools to provide future generations of Wisconsin workers with the necessary skills to compete in a 21st century economy. Failing to do this makes it nearly impossible to get Wisconsin back on track with where the rest of the country is in terms of job growth rather than lagging at 44th in job creation.

 

In addition to altering Wisconsin's tax code, Republicans also exempted themselves from having to balanced the budget. Wisconsin state statutes currently require the Legislature to balance each biennial budget. That means, spending cannot exceed projected revenue. This law was implemented in 2001 to protect the taxpayers of Wisconsin and has been followed until now. With the passage of this budget, Republicans again told Wisconsinites that they are above the law by including a provision exempting them from this common sense statute. As a result, Republicans will be able to spend, spend, spend at the expense of Wisconsin taxpayers.

 

TRANSPORTATION

This budget continued down the same path as the last one, by increasing financial support to highways, while providing little to our public transit infrastructure. A 2012 report titled Transportation and the New Generation released by the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group revealed that for the first time since World War II, Americans are driving less. Despite the fact that public transit use is increasing while people are driving less, highway expansion projects continue to be highly prioritized.

As a result, local governments have been forced to shift funding, raise fares, change or eliminate routes, and reduce vital services to keep their public transit systems running. Many of these changes were seen by riders in our own community after the last budget was enacted. In 2012, the Milwaukee County Transit System was forced to increase fares for TransitPlus users by 75 cents, raising the cost of each bus ticket to $4. The system also had to eliminate some bus service routes.

Having a well-supported public transit system is vital to maintaining and creating jobs in our community. According to the Milwaukee County Transit systems, on average 140,000 rides are provided daily. Of these, 39% are commuters traveling to and from work, another 5% are heading to job interviews, and 11% are students making their way to classes to learn valuable skills for their future careers. Therefore, my colleagues and I will continue to do what we can to encourage the bipartisan passage of key public transportation initiatives.

 

ENVIRONMENT

While I hoped anti-conservation Republicans would have learned from their mistakes in sacrificing the health of our treasured bodies of water, it appears they are continuing down the same road that led us here. The 2013-2015 Biennial Budget that passed included a provision that will be detrimental to our neighbors and businesses. The Republican budget prevents citizens from challenging the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' (DNR) approval of high-capacity wells based on the cumulative negative environmental impact the high volume water withdrawal would have on neighboring drinking water wells and area lakes and streams.

This move shows a complete disregard for the quality of our highly valued ground and surface waters. First, implementation could result in environmental issues, such as wells running dry due to over pumping of aquifers. Further, it could also have a negative impact on the health of Wisconsinites as water for consumption could be increasingly contaminated. Finally, this proposal removes current accountability and transparency measures that are in place allowing citizens to hold their government in check. Anglers, farmers, families, and those living in our rural areas should be deeply concerned with the negative environmental, social, and economic impacts of this proposal.

This is not the only provision damaging to our natural resources. In addition to high-capacity well changes, the Warren Knowles-Gaylord Nelson Stewardship Fund also saw drastic cuts. The Wisconsin Legislature created the Warren Knowles-Gaylord Nelson Stewardship Fund to preserve and maintain Wisconsin's valuable natural resources and environment, as well as expand outdoor recreational activities. Current law authorizes the state to borrow, through the sale of bonds, up to $60 million a year for the purchase of land to expand recreational opportunities and protect environmentally sensitive areas. Stewardship funds have been used to protect natural or recreational lands in 71 of Wisconsin's 72 counties. The Stewardship program also benefits the state's economy, including the $11 billion tourism business, $22 billion forestry industry, and $4 billion in hunting and fishing recreation. The program has received bipartisan support from the beginning and was signed into law by Republican Governor Tommy Thompson.

Unfortunately, the Republican budget made cuts to the program that were more extreme than what the governor had proposed initially. As a result, bonding for the Stewardship program was cut by a total of $18 million over the next two fiscal years. The budget also requires the DNR to sell off 10,000 acres by 2017. Wisconsinites recognize the importance of preserving Wisconsin's wildlife and public lands. In a nonpartisan poll conducted by the Nature Conservancy, nearly 90% of Wisconsin voters agreed that even in tight fiscal times this program should be a priority. My colleagues and I introduced several amendments to try and remove these harmful, anti-conservation provisions, however, all of these amendments were ultimately rejected by Senate Republicans.

 

Moving backwards in conservation policies threatens to do long-term damage to the environment that we have fought to maintain. The Stewardship Program is an essential tool in preserving Wisconsin's natural resources. If it continues to be scaled back, Wisconsin's future generations will face the consequences for years to come.

 

NONFISCAL ITEMS
On the last day the budget was before the Joint Committee on Finance (JFC), Republicans on the committee proposed and adopted 94 nonfiscal items. This is the highest number of nonfiscal items to be adopted in a budget in recent history. The budget is supposed to be a purely fiscal document, but has unfortunately become a place for pork and unpopular policy in recent budgets. My colleagues and I attempted to remove many of the nonfiscal budget items through amendments. However, all of these efforts were rejected by Senate Republicans. A list of a few of the nonfiscal items adopted in the 2013-2015 Biennial Budget can be found below.


Bounty Hunters in Wisconsin

Allowing bounty hunters to operate in Wisconsin is an unpopular idea with law enforcement, judges, and prosecutors due to the negative impact they can have on public safety. Not only can citizens be subject to ill treatment at the hands of these bounty hunters, but bounty hunters will also be able to dictate and influence the release of individuals charged with a crime who may be a danger to our society.

Surprisingly, despite the fact that this proposal received widespread bipartisan opposition from legislators and Wisconsinites during debate of the 2011-2013 Biennial Budget, Republicans decided to sneak it into this budget during the middle of the night in the hopes that the public would be none the wiser. Unfortunately, it is fair to assume that money, not public interest, will dictate bail of individuals charged with a crime.


Preventing Lead Paint Victims from Receiving Justice in Court
Since lead paint was banned from residential use in 1978, identifying the specific manufacturer of the paint responsible for a specific injury is difficult or often impossible. Therefore, in lead paint lawsuits, the burden of proof falls on each lead paint company to prove it could not have been responsible for the damage. This provision rejects this logic and instead maintains that a victim can only bring a complaint against a single defendant, which means an injured individual must prove which specific company manufactured the lead paint. Additionally, it could potentially void all pending and future lawsuits filed against lead paint manufacturers, usually on behalf of poisoned Wisconsin children.

Wisconsin children are uniquely at risk for lead poisoning, which can result in a lifetime of medical complications. One-fourth of Wisconsin residences were built before 1950, meaning they have an increased likelihood of containing lead paint. In fact, from 1996 to 2006, more than 40,000 children were diagnosed with lead poisoning in Wisconsin. This provision would make it nearly impossible for these young victims to obtain justice in court. Further, there are additional concerns that such a provision may be unconstitutional, and will most certainly result in legal challenges.

Destroying Investigative Journalism
Currently, the University of Wisconsin--Madison houses the nonpartisan Center for Investigative Journalism on their campus in the School of Journalism's building. This center has proven pivotal in training our next generation of journalists for their future careers by providing them with internship opportunities. Further, it aims to serve the public by ensuring they are not kept in the dark on key matters. The work done by this center has even earned awards and received publication in major national news outlets.

Under the provision, the Center for Investigative Journalism would not be allowed on campus, or in any facilities owned or leased by the Board of Regents. In addition, UW employees would be prohibited from helping students as a part of their duties as a UW employee. This provision that remained in the Republican budget is not only bad for our next generation of Wisconsin workers, but it is also a disservice to the public.

 

BUDGET PASSAGE

My colleagues and I introduced over 50 amendments to try and fix the budget to ensure it reflects our shared Wisconsin values. Unfortunately, not only did Senate Republicans cut off debate before we were able to vote on each amendment, but they also rejected every amendment we offered. This action confirms what we have been saying from the beginning: Radical legislative Republicans are not interested in entertaining common sense solutions to create jobs in our state and are unwilling to move Wisconsin forward in a bipartisan manner.

 

 

Click here or on the video player above to watch my concluding budget remarks on YouTube.

 

 

Ask Chris

I often have neighbors contact me looking for my perspective on various local and state issues. I very much appreciate our neighbors' questions and want to dedicate a portion of my newsletter to common questions that I hear to maintain an open dialogue. Please continue reading for this week's question.

Q: Did the budget pass along party lines this time around?

A: The budget received bipartisan opposition with Republican and Democratic members in both the Senate and the Assembly opposing this extreme bill. Continue reading for more information about why some Republican legislators voted "no" on the budget.

 

Creates a Structural Deficit

This budget creates a structural deficit of at least $500 million, leading us down a dangerous road. One Republican legislator stated that he "must prioritize the views of my constituents by voting against this flawed two-year spending plan." Further the same legislator also notes that this budget will increase taxpayer financed spending by 3.1% compared to the previous budget and increase property taxes by $159.4 million in December 2013 and $179 million in December 2014.

 

Backroom Voucher Deal Bad for Wisconsin

Republicans and Democrats alike have been trying to get the truth about vouchers expansion out to the public--that the provision is the result of a backroom lobby deal between the powerful voucher lobbyists and Republicans interested in job security or political financing. A Republican legislator who opposed the budget was quoted as saying, "The parental school choice deal in this budget is great for the politicians that cut it behind closed doors. However, it's nothing short of an absolute cave-in to the status-quo defenders of the education bureaucracy in the State Senate. The low income families of this state will have the school door of hope slammed in their face if this deal becomes law." A different Republican senator addressed the fact that he was involved in the creation of the initial voucher experiment in Milwaukee, but stated the following regarding his opposition to statewide expansion: "After 20 years, I haven't seen any adequate evidence that the experiment is working, let alone [is] worthy of expansion." Further, this legislator stated that continuing to support two parallel school district will only harm our public schools and our communities.

 

Shady Nonfiscal Provisions Inserted Last-Minute

Democratic legislators were not the only ones upset that this fiscal budget document was being used to further nonfiscal policy items. A Republican legislator said in a statement prior to passage of the budget, "There is no reasonable explanation of why the bail bondsmen language was inserted in the state budget. Both liberals and conservatives in the law enforcement community oppose this slimy budget provision citing its negative impacts on victims and the financing of our courts, plus an increased threat to public safety."

Another Republican legislator that voted "no" on the budget said he was surprised to see so many nonfiscal items in the budget given that during his run for governor, Scott Walker had the following quote listed on his Web site: "Strip policy and pork projects from the state budget. The budget process should be about funding essential government services based on the taxpayers' ability to pay. It should not be about horse trading for special interest groups or establishing talking points for the next campaign."

 

 

Did You Know...?

You may be familiar with the Noah's Ark water park from visiting with family and friends. But did you know that this water park is also the largest in the United States?

 

Noah's Ark is located the heart of Wisconsin Dells and spans about 70 acres. It boasts 41 waterslides, two huge wave pools, two endless rivers, four children's water play areas, an activity pool, and more. This and other Wisconsin Dells attractions are vital to our state as visitor spending of $875 million generated $1.2 billion in total business sales in Wisconsin Dells in 2011 alone.

 

Click here to learn more about Wisconsin Dells.
 

 

June is Invasive Species Awareness Month

This June marks Wisconsin's 9th Annual Invasive Species Awareness Month. Invasive species are non-native plants, animals, or pathogens, which are a threat to Wisconsin's waters, wetlands, and wild lands. These invasive species break down and destroy Wisconsin natural habitats and ecosystems through harming native plants and animals.
 

Examples of two significant invasive species in Wisconsin include the sea lamprey and the zebra mussel. The sea lamprey is a parasite and member of the "jawless fish" family, which attack lake fish with their teeth to feed on them. Sea lampreys have a negative impact on Wisconsin's anglers who fish for popular game fish that is increasingly falling victim to the sea lamprey. The zebra mussel is a small freshwater mussel, which brings bacteria to lakes. Because they are sharp, grow in clusters, and are difficult to remove, they often hamper boating, swimming, fishing, hunting, hiking, and other recreation. They also take and economic toll on commercial, agricultural, forestry and aquacultural resources.
 

This month highlights how important it is to stay aware of these invasive species and protect the natural lands of Wisconsin. Below are some tips to help stop the spread of these invasive species.
 

Tips for Boaters, Paddlers, and Anglers

The main way sea lampreys and zebra mussels invade Wisconsin waters is through the unintentional contact between bodies of water where these species previously exist, and boats and water equipment transported to new areas. Remember these tips the next time you are out on the lake:

  • Examine your boat, trailer, and clothing to remove any visible plants, fish, or animals (before launching, after loading, and before transporting on a public highway)

  • After leaving any body of water, drain your boats, motor, or other equipment of any lake water still present

  • After draining, clean and dry equipment

  • Never move live fish away from a body of water

  • Dispose of unwanted bait in the trash

Tips for Campers, Gardeners, and Landowners

Other invasive species, such as insects, fungi, and reed canary grass reach wetlands and woodlands through human activity such as urban development, farming, and gardening. Next time you are outside in the woods or in your own backyard, here are tips to keep in mind to prevent wetland and terrestrial invasive species from spreading:

  • If camping, leave your firewood at home and instead buy it within a 25-mile radius of your campsite

  • Inspect clothing and equipment for seeds, insects, or other particulates before leaving your campsite

  • Use native plant species when gardening and dispose of leftover gardening seeds in the trash when finished

  • Report and rid of any established invasive species found in your garden or along different Wisconsin habitats you notice

  • Do not tamper with native trees and plants on your property as natural landscapes best protect against invasive species

You can make a difference by becoming involved in local efforts to control these invasive species and educate others on the importance of prevention. Many local communities host workshops, field trips, lectures and other activities, which include ways to contribute and help combat invasive species, such as weed-outs and clean-ups. For more information, contact your area neighborhood association, friends, family, or other local organizations to become involved and coordinate new events.
 

 

Stop by Summerfest

Our community is currently hosting the celebrated Summerfest Music Festival from Noon to Midnight now through Sunday, June 30 and Tuesday, July 2 through Sunday, July 7. 


During these days, the famous Marcus Amphitheater, along with 11 other stages, will present live music day and night to music lovers of all genres with over 700 bands performing. This annual event is being held at Henry Maier Festival Park, a location boasting 75 acres along Lake Michigan in beautiful downtown Milwaukee. Along with over a week of music, festival-goers can enjoy a diverse selection of food and beverages, marketplaces, interactive exhibits, and family-focused entertainment and activities.
 

Summerfest attracts 800,000 to 1 million festival-goers each year, rightfully earning the title of the "World's Largest Music Festival." Summerfest has proven to be a beneficial way to support our local economy, as well as providing us with entertainment from both local and nationally-known talent. Ticket sales, food and beverage commissions, and total revenue all increased between 2011 and 2012 and are expected to continue to increase this year. This exciting event helps to boost sales for neighborhood restaurants and businesses while simultaneously supporting local musicians and artists. It has been estimated that Summerfest has generated between $150 to $200 million in direct and indirect economic impact for our community each year.
 

Click here for more information on the activities and the line-up for this year's Summerfest.

 

 

Summer Activities in Our Community

Our community offers a wide variety of summer activities for families, children, and adults alike. Below are just a few activities that you can take part in this summer.

 

Whether you are an avid music lover, or just want to spend time outdoors with friends and family, our community boasts a number of free summer concert series that everyone can enjoy. Check out some of these great events listed below.

Chill on the Hill
Tuesdays This Summer
Stop by this local music concert series on Tuesday nights this summer at Humboldt Park. Opening acts start at 6 p.m. with main acts running from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The Bay View Neighborhood Association operates the concert series in partnership with the Milwaukee County Parks, with the support of numerous local sponsors, including area restaurants, vendors, and organizations.

Humboldt Park (MAP)
3000 S. Howell Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53207

Click here for more information about this event, including a line-up.

Jazz in the Park
Thursdays This Summer
This free, outdoor summer music series features an eclectic line-up of jazz, big band, funk, R&B, reggae, blues, and more. Performers come from across town or across the country. Concerts take place Thursday evenings from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. now through September 5 in Cathedral Square Park. Music starts at 6 p.m., but stop by early for Jazz in the Park Happy Hour and get great drink specials. Food will also be available for purchase. All proceeds from sales at Jazz in the Park help offset the high costs of production and ensure the continued success of the festival. Please do your part to support this event.

Cathedral Square Park (MAP)
520 E. Wells Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202

Click here for more information, including a musical line-up for the event.

Oak Creek Summer Concert Series
Various Wednesdays This Summer
Do not forget to bring your blanket and chairs to this annual outdoor concert event. Neighborhood musicians will perform from 7:00 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Oak Creek Community Center Grounds (MAP)
8580 S. Howell Avenue
Oak Creek, WI 53154

Click here for more information about the event, including a line-up.

 

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