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January 4, 2010

Wisconsin’s Top Ten of 2009


2009 was a difficult and challenging year for our nation’s economy.  Wisconsin was not spared, as state budget shortfalls exploded and job losses mounted. 


Politically, Wisconsin’s long standing split party governance in the Legislature and Governor’s office was replaced with one-party domination, as Democrats now fully control both branches of state government.


Here are the top 10 significant events from state government in 2009 as I saw it:


Job Losses:  Unemployment in Wisconsin approached 10%, and state unemployment and safety nets, such as BadgerCare, were maxed out. 


End of Income Tax Reciprocity:  In September of 2009, Minnesota pulled out of the 40-year old income tax reciprocity agreement with Wisconsin. 


Car Insurance Mandates:  The state budget bill now requires every driver to have auto insurance, while premiums increased dramatically to account for new mandates that increase and expand coverage.


Drunk Driving Crackdown:  DUI laws were strengthened, with new penalties, new treatments and prevention options, and the expanded use of ignition interlock devices.


Deer Hunting Debacle:  Wisconsin DNR now in public hearings concerning their questionable herd management that left many hunters skunked during the fall gun deer hunt.


Health Insurance Mandates Added:  Autism coverage, dependents up to age 27, cochlear implants, and contraception were added to the list of insurance mandates in Wisconsin.


Property Tax Alarms:  The budget bill included a repeal of cost control measures for school districts and doubled the allowable property tax increases for municipal and county government.  


Stillwater Bridge Allocation:  A budget provision now designates state funding sources for a new St. Croix River Crossing.


Statewide Smoking Ban Enacted:  The Legislature passed a ban on smoking in enclosed public places of employment that goes into effect July 5, 2010.


Budget Bill Passed: Starting with a historic $6.6. billion budget shortfall, state taxes were increased by $1.9 billion. In addition the state received $3.2 billion in federal stimulus dollars, and the projected 2011-13 structural deficit stands at over $2.2 billion. 


What should the state legislature be focused on for 2010?  Visit my website,, to offer your comments, read blogs, or participate in online surveys.  You can also call me toll free from Wisconsin at 1-800-862-1092.