March 23, 2018


Great news!  Wisconsin's present unemployment rate of just 2.9 percent is the lowest it has ever been!  In addition, more people (3,068,200 people, to be precise) are actually employed today in Wisconsin than ever before.


That's why we've bet big on Wisconsin's workforce -- because our economy needs workers more badly than ever before!  There are more actual dollars going into K-12 classrooms this year than ever before.  University of Wisconsin tuition has been frozen for six straight years so that college is more affordable for students and families; with record-low unemployment, more of our graduates who grew up here in Wisconsin and want to stay here are able to pursue careers here.  We're now a top-10 state in hiring employees with disabilities.  We've set a new standard for welfare programs that result in more people regaining the dignity of work.  We're recruiting more veterans to Wisconsin.  We've recently doubled the availability of youth apprenticeships.  And the list goes on.


Wisconsin is working.  Our people are working like never before.  This is the direction we want to go!


As always, I encourage you to follow my updates on social media or contact my office directly with your questions.  Best wishes on your weekend!


Giving You Your Money Back!


You've read in my previous newsletters that your state government is already running a significant surplus in our budget this year.  With the economy running at full steam and a record-high number of people in our workforce, sales tax and income tax collections are higher than anticipated!  That's YOUR money.  I am certain that you know better than the government how to spend it wisely.  So I voted this week to give it back to you!


If you have children at home, watch your mail!  The Department of Revenue (DOR) will contact you early this summer with instructions for claiming your $100 refund per child.  (I know, I know... I often use this newsletter to warn you of new consumer scams.  But this is no scam; DOR will use information from your 2017 income tax return to determine your eligibility for the refund.)  You will receive your refund in time for back-to-school shopping in August!


And, whether you have children at home or not, retailers everywhere in Wisconsin will charge no sales tax during the first weekend in August on qualifying clothing, electronics and many other items.  The savings can really add up if you think ahead... so start planning!  Thinking about investing, say, $700 in a new home computer and accessories?  You'll save almost $40 in sales tax.  Need a new set of clothes that totals $200?  That's another $11 in sales tax savings.  You get the idea.  (Although there will be a limit on how expensive each item may be to qualify for the tax holiday -- for example, a computer must cost less than $750 to be nontaxable -- there is no limit on how many items may be purchased tax-free.)


Both houses of the state legislature have now voted passage of this bill; it's headed soon to Governor Scott Walker for signature into law!


New Education Opportunities


Demand is spiking across many industries for employees skilled in the use of geographic information systems (GIS).  Do you work, or want to work, in health care?  Or as a firefighter?  Or a conservationist, an urban planner, a software/app developer, or even a farmer?  New opportunities abound... and the University of Wisconsin-Madison is offering new educational programs to prepare you!


Building on the success of its existing Online Master of Science in Cartography and GIS, UW-Madison will offer three new options in Fall 2018 designed for people of any experience level.  A new 12-credit online basic certificate program will prepare you for an entry-level GIS job (even if you have no background in GIS, mapmaking or coding) in a year or less.  A similar but more advanced capstone certificate will also be available for those who have some experience already.  And a new accelerated master's degree program (this one happens in-person, on campus) will allow a student to move through introductory work into advanced work and be ready to enter high-level jobs in just one year (instead of the two years often required for master's programs).


I think it's really exciting that our university is helping you choose exactly what educational format best suits your own career goals -- and they promise to let you transfer credits from the more basic certificate programs toward the master's programs if you later decide to continue your work!


Even if a career in GIS systems isn't for you, the UW System's eCampus now features more than 150 online degrees and certificates.  Or maybe our local Lakeshore Technical College offers something else that is up your alley.  With unemployment at an all-time record low, Wisconsin businesses are looking harder than ever before for skilled employees.  They need you!




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Room 208 North, State Capitol ● PO Box 8952 ● Madison, WI 53708
(608) 266-0656  ●  ●