Thursday, May 21
In this edition of the Hebl Herald, I provide some information on a bill I am circulating to grant creditable service for the WRS to veterans. I also discuss my thoughts on Gov. Walker's flailing economic development agency, the Wisconsin Economic Development Authority.
Please remember that I am here to serve you. Do not
hesitate to contact me regarding state issues that concern you. My door
is always open to you. Please stop by and visit to discuss any state
Breaking Down the Budget
On February 3, Gov. Walker released his state budget proposal. Like many of you, I was shocked and disappointed by many of the provisions included in the budget. Over the next several e-updates, I will be including a segment called Breaking Down the Budget, in which I will dissect specific provisions in the budget that I find troubling. Below is a list of items I'll be discussing. Items linked in blue were covered in previous e-updates and can be viewed by clicking on the text.
Breaking Down the Budget
You may have heard about a recent report which found that Wisconsin has the third-worst roads of any state in the nation. Potholes and other problems cost Wisconsin drivers almost twice as much as the national average for repairs.
Wisconsin has a road aid problem. Ask anyone who has to
travel on town or state roads around Dane County, or through city
streets in many municipalities around our area.
The governor's budget includes more than $1 billion
in borrowing to pay for road projects. The governor announced his
borrowing plan after spending the last year calling for long-term
solutions to road funding.
What was Gov. Walker's response? He rejected Sec. Gottlieb's recommendations, opting instead to move forward with a plan to put $1.3 billion on IOUs for our future generations to pay.
Unfortunately, it appears that under Governor Walker, a
rough road lies ahead for the transportation budget.
Remembering to Serve our Veterans
Memorial Day is a day we reflect on those brave Americans who paid the ultimate sacrifice while defending the American ideal.
It's important that we have a day to pay tribute to those brave individuals. I believe one of the most sincere ways of honoring their sacrifice is by honoring the lives of their brothers and sisters in arms who return home with new obstacles and challenges involved in civilian life.
We have many uplifting examples of friends and neighbors who are working their hardest to support our veterans returning home from overseas. For example, US Vet, LLC, based out of Sun Prairie, is a full-service Disabled Veteran Owned company providing construction and subcontracting services. US Vet is owned by – and employs – veterans.
US Vet is able to not only take advantage of the many skills its employees learned while in the military, but also provides an invaluable service for veterans who returned home in need of employment to support their families.
Companies like US Vet provide invaluable opportunities for our veterans. I believe that the legislature should take a leadership role in serving our veterans as well.
That is why I am a co-sponsor of legislation that would create a task force to address issues facing veterans as they return home.
And this week, I announced I am introducing legislation that would provide greater opportunities for returning veterans to receive creditable service under the Wisconsin Retirement System.
As a state, Wisconsin has acknowledged our soldiers' work by providing creditable military service for state workers who served their country. However, for veterans that enter the WRS, current law only allows creditable military service for service prior to 1974. That means that veterans who served in combat in the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, Iraq, and other military conflicts would not be able to claim this credit.
The pre-1974 requirement was written into law nearly 35 years ago. In order to create a fair and equitable system and to show proper appreciation to veterans who have served since 1974, it is clear that we need to update this statute.
I remain committed to addressing issues facing our veterans. This session, I have co-sponsored bills that would create an annual Veteran Education Awareness Week, allow college credit for military training and experience, and allow college credit for language courses for veterans who have participated in the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center.
On Memorial Day, we bow our heads and remember those we have lost. We gather with family and friends to reminisce and celebrate the lives of family and friends who died while serving our country.
But just as important as remembering the past is looking
to the future. I will continue to work with constituents, veterans, and
my legislative colleagues to make sure our veterans returning from
combat have opportunities for psychological, emotional, and financial
What's going on at WEDC?
When he was first sworn into office in 2011, Gov. Walker moved swiftly to create the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, known widely as WEDC. Gov. Walker promised that WEDC would serve as an efficient and effective tool for businesses planning to locate or expand in Wisconsin.
Fast forward to late last week, when Gov. Walker abruptly announced that he is recommending an end to WEDC's business loan program.
Gov. Walker claimed that he was recommending an end to the loan program after a critical audit showed misstep after misstep and a continuing trend of incompetence.
The Wisconsin State Journal, however, revealed that the governor's decision to end the loan program may have stemmed from its investigation into the governor's approach to handing out unsecured loans to risky businesses. Read the exposé here.
In short, Gov. Walker announced his plan to shut down the loan program shortly after the Walker administration was forced to release documents that showed top advisors had pushed for millions in unsecured loans for a company that donated the maximum amount to Gov. Walker's campaign. WEDC eventually awarded the company $500,000 in loans, which the company has failed to repay.
This is just the latest in a long list of missteps for WEDC, which includes:
This week, Rep. Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) and Sen. Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point) called for a federal investigation into WEDC's decision to provide a forgivable loan to one of Gov. Walker's high-dollar contributors. WEDC's continued demonstration of incompetence raises too many concerns.
Perhaps most concerning is that at every wrong turn, the governor has reiterated his support for the agency. As chairman of the WEDC board, Walker should take responsibility for the agency's failings and make overtures to either improve it immediately or scrap this failed experiment altogether. I am in favor of a federal investigation to make sure that Wisconsin's primary economic development agency is operating appropriately and effectively.
At this stage, WEDC has failed to live up to its name as
Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. Walker's Extremely
Dysfunctional Corporation has led to a Wisconsin Economic Development
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