This week, the Speaker's Task Force on Alzheimer's and Dementia introduced a package of 10 bipartisan bills to provide better education and additional community-based resources for families affected by these diseases. I could not have known then that, just a few hours later, two lives would be lost in a tragic car accident in Sheboygan County; one of the victims' mental wellness is believed to have been a factor in that crash. This week's events were a cold, cruel reminder that Wisconsin families in our own neighborhoods struggle every day to cope with mental illness. Despite the miracles of modern medicine, there are no known ways to cure or even treat some illnesses.
Wisconsin can do more to help the growing number of people who face mental wellness challenges, which is why I am coauthoring all 10 proposals identified by the Task Force. We plan, among other ideas, to increase respite care funding by $1 million for the Alzheimer's Family and Caregiver Support Program; expand the number of dementia care specialists in Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs) across the state; better educate employers and caregivers; and improve training for mobile mental health crisis teams. I expect several of these ideas, and perhaps others, to move promptly through the legislature and be enacted into law this spring.
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!
Tax Season Begins
Both the federal IRS and the Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR) began processing income tax returns this week. Wisconsin taxpayers may use Wisconsin e-file to file Wisconsin state tax returns directly with DOR; the website is presently active and open for business. Forms and instructions for individuals, local governments and businesses are always available on the DOR website. For tax-related questions, DOR's income tax customer service department may be reached at (608) 266-2772.
Most Wisconsin tax preparation businesses are reputable, but take precautions to avoid becoming a victim of fraud. The Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection requests that you promptly report any suspicious activity to its Consumer Protection Hotline at (800) 422-7128 or online.
Beware of giving your personal financial information to a business unless you actually intend for a preparer to file your taxes. Provide clear directions to your preparer and make sure that the company specifically advises you that it will file your tax return.
Never sign a document without first reading and understanding what it says. Do not feel guilty about taking as much time as you need.
Always insist upon receiving copies of all documents that you are required to sign or that identify the charges you will be required to pay. If a business does not agree to provide copies, don't sign!
State of the State Address
Governor Scott Walker delivered his sixth State of the State Address before a joint session of the legislature this week, where he shared many reasons why our state is strong and continues to move in the right direction. If you missed it, you can watch the entire video here. (Skip ahead to approximately the 42:30 mark when the Governor enters the room.)
We made Wisconsin a more attractive place to live and work in 2015. It has been 14 years since our unemployment rate has been as low as it is today. We passed a state budget with no tax increases despite investing further in K-12 education and long-term care programs. But we have more work to do in 2016, especially as we seek to fill the tens of thousands of jobs in Wisconsin that remain open, and I look forward to working with the Governor to achieve more progress. Please visit my website for my full statement in reaction to the Governor's comments!