December 15th, 2017



Now this is your government working for you!  The Senate Committee on Government Operations, Technology and Consumer Protection took the rather unusual step of traveling to Sheboygan County yesterday for a public hearing on several proposals that directly affect our part of the state.  Among the proposals on the agenda was Senate Bill 466, a bill that I cosponsored that would help put a stop to the misuse of air quality monitoring data by the federal Environmental Protection Agency against Sheboygan County.  It's not every day that state lawmakers are able to travel, as a full committee, directly to the part of the state affected by an issue to host the conversation right there among the affected community.  I appreciate their willingness to come and hear our story right in our backyard!


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!


There Must Be a Better Way


In last week's newsletter and elsewhere, I've mentioned that the Assembly Ways and Means Committee on which I serve is working on a new project.  We're going to design a state tax system that actually looks like it was designed on purpose.  We're going to present a tax plan that is fairer, lower and easier to comply with.  First, we're going to spend as many months as it takes to gain stakeholder input from across our entire economy so that we understand where your government is getting in your way.


Here's what I mean.  The summary of the things that are exempt from tax in our state is 114 pages long.  There are more goods and services that are exempt from sales tax than are taxable.  The sales and use tax instructions for grocery stores is 61 pages.  If you own a campground, your sales tax guidance document is a mere 26 pages.  Married Couple A, making $35,000 in taxable wages per year, might pay just $125 in state income tax, which is way under the national average, but Married Couple B, taking home $75,000 per year, might pay $2,811, which is way over the national average.


Maybe that's not all bad.  Maybe Married Couple B, who earns about twice as much as Married Couple A, should pay 22 times as much income tax, and maybe it should depend on a variety of factors.  Maybe, as a society, we actually do want more goods and services to be nontaxable than taxable.  I'm not blaming the Department of Revenue for over-explaining our tax code.  And I'm not even saying that the Ways and Means Committee plans to completely overhaul the way we do business in Wisconsin.


But we are saying as a legislature that it's high time your elected officials think through the entire system on purpose!  We're going to do our best to start with a blank sheet of paper and discuss, in the most basic sense, how the government ought to tax the people -- and we'll go from there.  I promise: I'll keep you posted with developments.  In the meantime, keep sharing your stories and your suggestions!


Impress Your Friends


The writers at compiled a few fun facts about Christmas that I didn't know and I bet you didn't either!  Have a laugh around the dinner table with a few of these gems:


Santa's suit wasn't always red.  Over the years, Santa Claus has been depicted wearing plenty of different colors including blue, white and green.  It seems that Santa's now-ubiquitous red coat originally began in a series of Coca-Cola ads that were popular during the 1930s.


Christmas wasn't always legal in America.  You might have gotten a big fine if you were caught celebrating Christmas in Boston (settled primarily by the Puritans) in the late 1600s.  At that time in history, a lot of folks still considered any celebration occurring near the winter solstice to be a pagan practice.  And the Puritans would not have approved, either, of the Virginian settlers at Jamestown who had earlier created America's first batch of eggnog; nog comes from the word grog, meaning any drink made with rum.


Christmas can be dangerous.  About 15,000 Americans have to visit the emergency room every year due to holiday-related decorating accidents.  That's 300 people for every state in the Union.


How come Santa can fly?  Washington Irving, the American author best known for The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, seems to be the source of Santa's flying sleigh.  His 1819 short story series The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon includes a dream of St. Nicholas flying through the sky in a wagon.




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