April 13th, 2018

The 2017-18 Wisconsin legislative session has come to a close.  But in contrast to the paralysis that seems to never end in Washington, in the past 15 months, your state government has enacted 273 new reforms (plus several dozen more set to be signed into law next week) that make our state an even better place to live.


More money is invested today in public education than ever before, and new money is headed their way to help keep them safe.  More of our people are working than ever before; just 2.9 percent are unemployed.  We inked the deal of the century; construction is underway at technology giant Foxconn, which is now expected to increase our state's GDP by $52 billion over the next 15 years.  Since 2010, your taxes are fully $8 billion lower than they were on track to be; just this year, we entirely deleted three state-level taxes.  You don't pay any state-level property tax at all anymore!


We're taking care of our people, too.  Governor Scott Walker just signed into law this week the 29th and 30th new laws to address the opioid crisis that has been ripping apart our families; at long last, we are seeing signs of improvement, as opioid prescriptions recently dropped by 20 percent.  Our comprehensive welfare reform package is already helping people move off of assistance and toward the dignity of independence; there is news just this week that the federal government is already borrowing our ideas to reform federal programs also.  College tuition is frozen again so that higher education continues to be within reach.  We passed 11 new bills to improve our foster care system and give our young people the best possible chance to achieve.  We've taken a number of steps to help keep health insurance accessible and affordable despite Obamacare's disastrous cost increases in so many markets.


As these photos reminded me, we've come a long way in just the past year.  We've taken many steps forward.  I deeply appreciate the trust you've placed in me to be your voice.  And there's more yet to do!


Although the legislative session is over and the law prohibits me from sending any more e-newsletters (because it's an election year), my staff and I are still here to assist you; we're already working on new ideas for the future, and we're always looking for new ideas from you.  I encourage you to follow my updates on social media or contact my office directly as often as we can be helpful to you.  Best wishes on your weekend -- and on the summer that can't arrive soon enough!


A Session in Pictures

Literally the first order of business that your state government took up this session -- it was Assembly Bill 1, and it was signed into law as 2017 Wisconsin Act 1 -- was a bill that I authored with Senator Devin LeMahieu to pave the way (pardon the pun) for Masters Gallery to expand its operations in Sheboygan County.  This project alone brought 120 new jobs to our area in the short term; the company envisions another 200 jobs coming in the future.  Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch (standing second from left) joined us at the groundbreaking last spring!


The people of Sheboygan County have waited far too long for the State Highway 23 expansion project to come to fruition.  It can't be overstated how critical this project is for our drivers' safety and for our growing economy!  Senator LeMahieu, Representative Tyler Vorpagel and I persuaded our legislative colleagues and the Governor to do something highly unusual last year: we required the Department of Transportation (DOT) to set aside $19 million so that some work may continue while we regain the necessary federal permits.  Here, DOT explains to residents how federal Judge Lynn Adelman blocked the project in 2015 and how Wisconsin is cooperating with federal counterparts to restore the permits as promptly as possible.


Due in part to the nationwide opioid abuse crisis, Wisconsin's foster care system faces new challenges every day.  I had the honor of serving on the bipartisan Speaker's Task Force on Foster Care last fall.  We traveled across the whole state to learn about what works and what doesn't.  Ultimately, 11 of our ideas to improve outcomes for children became law in spring 2018.


Representative Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee) and I worked for almost a year and a half on a package of bills to crack down on a small number of delinquent landlords in Wisconsin.  The bad actors buy up rental properties (sometimes by the hundreds) at sheriff sale foreclosure auctions but refuse to keep up with property taxes and safety codes; their victims are our neighborhoods and our most vulnerable classes of tenants.  Our bills force the bad actors to change how they do business: a person will no longer be allowed to buy sheriff sale properties if he or she is 120+ days delinquent on property taxes already, and counties will be able to host the auctions online if they choose so that more potential buyers can participate in the real estate market more readily.


During this session, I served on the new Assembly Committee on Federalism and Interstate Relations.  We traveled to Washington last spring to discuss issues such as Medicaid, transportation and tax reform that require federal and state cooperation.  Among our stops was a visit to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); later, our committee would advance the legislation -- which Governor Walker recently signed into law -- that puts a stop to the EPA unreasonably punishing Sheboygan County with ozone nonattainment status due to other states' failures.


Although House Speaker Paul Ryan isn't pictured here, we met with him that day; this photo was taken on the Speaker's Balcony of the U.S. Capitol.  Congressman Ryan announced this week that he won't seek reelection.  Thank you for your 20 years of service on behalf of our state, Speaker Ryan; you are a man of honor, and I wish you well!




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Room 208 North, State Capitol ● PO Box 8952 ● Madison, WI 53708
(608) 266-0656  ●  Rep.Katsma@legis.wisconsin.gov  ●  www.repkatsma.com