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 District Dialogue

Serving the Greater Northwoods

Oneida - Vilas - Florence - Forest

May 21, 2021

Budget Update

On Thursday, the Joint Committee on Finance met to continue crafting a reasonable and fiscally responsible budget. The main focus of Thursday's meeting was increasing funding for Wisconsin's tourism industry, investing in election security, and addressing homelessness throughout the state.


Wisconsin's tourism industry is vital to our economy and no one knows this better than the people of the Northwoods. The state's budget writing committee increased funding for the Department of Tourism's marketing program and provided funding on a one-time basis for the Office of Outdoor Recreation. I am glad that JFC is making the necessary investments needed to bolster Wisconsin's tourism industry, which has been severely burdened from the pandemic and forced government shutdowns. 


As election integrity and security remains an important issue, the Joint Finance Committee made six elections positions permanent and provided the Elections Commission with more funding for elections cybersecurity. Now more than ever we need to restore trust in our voting process and this investment is a positive step forward.


The committee also made major investments into programs that provide assistance to homeless individuals throughout Wisconsin. The committee increased funding for the Housing Assistance Program (HAP) by $600,000 annually. This program provides grants to local governments, non-profits, and for-profits to operate housing and supportive services for homeless with the ultimate goal of transitioning homeless individuals to independent living. In addition, JFC is committed to funding the Employment Assistance Program, which provides grants to municipalities to connect homeless individuals with permanent employment. 


I am happy with the work that the Joint Committee on Finance is doing to bolster Wisconsin's tourism industry, secure our elections, and address homelessness across the state. 

Getting Wisconsin Back To Work

Left to Right: Rep. Barb Dittrich, Speaker Robin Vos, Sen. Howard Marklein

Wisconsin is facing a severe worker shortage due to the pandemic. Businesses throughout the state, and especially in the Northwoods, are struggling to stay afloat and are desperate to fill much-needed positions in anticipation of making up crucial profits this summer.


With this in mind, a major obstacle for employers in Wisconsin has been the enhanced federal unemployment benefit program and its lack of a work search requirement. The continued welfare has been a disincentive for workers to apply for jobs as they are not required to search for work to receive unemployment benefits. This is why Sen. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green) and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) have introduced a bill that removes Wisconsin from the enhanced federal unemployment programs and re-imposes work search requirements for those receiving unemployment benefits.


If this bill passes, Wisconsin would join 21 other states that have opted out of the federal UI benefit enhancer program early and 36 other states that have re-imposed work search requirements. I am glad that Republicans in the legislature continue to make a serious effort to get our state back to work and our economy up and running.

JEM Grant Awards 

I was happy to find out that the Wisconsin Department of Tourism has awarded four Joint Effort Marketing (JEM) grants to communities in the Northwoods. For those that don't know, JEM grants help fund non-profit organizations for the promotion of tourism events and destinations, which is the backbone of the Northwoods' economy.

Here is a list of projects that the JEM grants will help fund:

Northern Wisconsin ATV/UTV Traveler Development Project - $38,000

  • This project is a collaboration of the Chambers of Commerce in Langlade, Forest, Lincoln, and Oneida Counties.

Rhinelander Area Destination Branding Campaign - $39,550

  • This grant is awarded to the Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce.

#welovethenorthwoods Northwoods of Wisconsin COVID-19 Regional Marketing Campaign - $39,550

  • This project is a collaboration of the Chambers of Commerce in Forest, Iron, Lincoln, Langlade, Oneida, and Price Counties.

Crandon Rocks Labor Day Weekend - $39,550

  • This grant is awarded to the Forest County Chamber of Commerce.

 It is more important now than ever to reignite Wisconsin's tourism industry, and that begins with investing in the Northwoods. Congratulations to this year's grant award recipients!

Hodag Heritage Days

As the inaugural Hodag Heritage Days comes to a climax, the Rhinelander Chamber of Commerce announced that today, Friday May 21st will officially become "Hodag Day" in Wisconsin.

In celebration of Hodag Day, I had the opportunity to take some pictures with the Hodag around the capitol in Madison.

We even ran into Senator Mary Felzkowski!


Thanks for stopping by the capitol, Hodag. Looking forward to next year's Hodag Heritage Days celebration. 

Veterans Memorial Ceremony

The annual Veterans Memorial Ceremony will be taking place next Saturday, May 29 at Union Grove Cemetery in Harshaw.


This is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate Memorial Day and pay our respects to all the brave men and women who gave their life for this great nation.


For more information about the ceremony, please contact Rick Smith at (715) 612-0332 or veteransceremonyharshaw@gmail.com. 

Memorial Day Ceremonies In The Area


Chain Skimmers Memorial Day Water Ski Show, May 27, Conover


Veterans Memorial Ceremony & Honor Procession, May 29, Harshaw


 Memorial Day Ceremony, May 30, Saint Germain


Memorial Day Ceremony, May 31, Phelps


Memorial Day Ceremony, May 31, Land O' Lakes VFW


Vilas County Veterans Office Memorial Day Program, May 31, Eagle River


Rhinelander Memorial Day Ceremony, May 31, Rhinelander


VFW Honor Guard at Newbold Cemetery, May 31, Newbold


AmVets/ American legion Honor Guard at Northland Memorial Park, May 31, Rhinelander 


VFW Honor Guard at Forest Home Cemetery, May 31, Rhinelander


AmVets/ American Legion Honor Guard at Nativity of Our Lord Cemetery, May 31,  Rhinelander


Memorial Day Parade, May 31, Three Lakes

 Community Events  

 Please click the following links for upcoming community events!


Eagle River Wednesday Farmers Market, May 12-October 6. Eagle River


Minocqua Farmers Market, May 14-October 8, Minocqua 


Hodag Farmers' Market, May 29-October 16, Rhinelander


Memorial Day Arts and Crafts Show, May 29, Eagle River


Memorial Day Sidewalk Sale, May 29, Eagle River