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(608)266-5780 | State Capitol, Room 307 West, P.O. Box 8953, Madison, WI 53708 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday, August 11-
Sunday, August 13
Saturday, August 12
1 p.m. - 3 p.m.
La Crosse Public Library
Saturday, August 12
6 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
Southside Community Center
Thursday, August 17
5 p.m. - 8 p.m.
Kane Street Community Garden
Friday, August 18
Wednesday, August 23
Friends and Neighbors,
I have heard from a number of you -- whether you contacted my office or spoke with me back in La Crosse -- regarding the state's proposed deal with Foxconn, a Taiwanese electronics manufacturer planning to build a Wisconsin facility to manufacture LCD television screens. A public hearing was held last Thursday, with both opponents and proponents of the deal speaking late into the night. With proceedings on the deal being pushed through so quickly, there are currently more questions than answers.
I believe we need to slow down and conduct the proper impact analyses and studies before moving forward on this deal. Moreover, we need to hear from constituents. This is why Senator Jennifer Shilling and I will be holding a listening session about the Foxconn deal this Monday, August 14 from 5:30-7 p.m. in the Onalaska Public Library, Meeting Room A. I hope many of you will be able to join us. In a similar vein, I have created a quick constituent survey meant to gauge support and areas of concern regarding the Foxconn deal. Please take a minute to fill it out here.
On its face, job creation for Wisconsinites is something we can all get behind. However, I have concerns about the state's return on investment. The Foxconn bill calls for a $3 billion incentive package, which includes up to $1.5 billion in payroll tax credits and up to $1.35 billion in tax credits on expenditures for six assets, such as land and building. Furthermore, according to a recent fiscal study, even in the best case scenario, the state will not break even on this deal for another 25 years. This rides on the assumption that Foxconn will create no fewer than 13,000 jobs, all of which will be filled by Wisconsin residents. There is also no timeline on when these jobs will be created. Given Foxconn's failure to deliver on similar promises in other states, I worry about Wisconsin incurring so much debt.
Moreover, as many of you have pointed out, I am concerned that environmental and labor protections will go by the wayside as the state makes exceptions and concessions in order to retain the company in Wisconsin. In fact, Gov. Walker has already started to roll back environmental regulations. I would like to see an environmental impact survey before we move forward, although the Foxconn bill exempts the company from having to produce one.
As always, I would love to hear from you on this and any other state matters of interest to you. If you have any questions or concerns regarding pending legislation, the state budget, or any other issue, feel free to contact my office by calling (608) 266-5780 or emailing me at Rep.Billings@legis.wi.gov.
Please continue reading for more detailed information on the happenings both in La Crosse and statewide.
95th Assembly District
As can be expected, the Foxconn deal is having a significant impact on the state's budget proceedings, with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority leader Scott Fitzgerald in open disagreement on how best to move forward with the proposed $3 billion incentive package for the electronics company. While Fitzgerald has said he sees finalizing the state budget as the priority, Vos has expressed that finalizing the Foxconn deal concurrently with the budget would be ideal in his mind.
With regard to the provisions within the Foxconn bill that might impact the state budget's fiscal distribution, $10 million has been set aside for grants to local units of government to help with their costs, including infrastructure and public safety. The bill also sets aside $252.4 million in general obligation supported borrowing, which would result in a payment of $2.9 million on the bonds during the 2017-19 biennium; however, these numbers rely on the assumption that the state will receive federal funding for the I-94 highway project.
With the budget stalled for more than a month, there is speculation that the Joint Finance Committee will meet during the week of August 21 to finalize voting on it; however, we have also been given reason to believe that a public hearing will be held for the Foxconn bill during the same time, which might postpone finalizing the budget even further. As of today, passing the budget is 42 days overdue.
One of the pieces of legislation that has received the most attention from constituents in the last couple of weeks is Assembly Bill 427, which relates to firearm safety classes being taught in public schools. The bill calls upon the Department of Public Instruction to create a model curriculum for such a course, which would then be instructed by a person who can show evidence of training in firearm safety. This legislation does not require schools to offer the course, leaving that decision up to individual school district.
While I find teaching proper gun safety very important, I do not believe it needs to be taught in schools. At a time when the majority of the state's public school cannot offer courses in driver's education, I do not believe we should be spending resources and offering credit toward graduation on such a class. I simply do not think there is enough material to cover a semester's worth of class, given than hunter's safety courses usually take only about a dozen of hours to complete. Moreover, there is always increased risk with bringing guns on school grounds, even if they are not loaded by the instructor. Therefore, while I respect Wisconsin's proud culture of hunting, I do not believe this is an activity that should be funded by public school dollars.
Concerns regarding the necessity of this bill were raised from both sides of the aisle during the public hearing held last Thursday. For the time being, this bill has only been heard and has not been scheduled for a vote.
Enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact
Wisconsin and the nation as a whole face a shortage of registered nurses (RNs). In fact, an estimated 525,000 RNs nationwide are expected to retire from the profession between 2012 and 2022, while the workforce will need to expand by 526,800 workers to meet demand during that same time period. Specifically in Wisconsin, the RN workforce needs to grow by 24 percent between 2010 and 2020.
Given this shortage, a policy change that has received a lot of support from constituents in the nursing field is for Wisconsin to join the Enhanced Nursing Licensure Compact (eNLC). Having the state be part of this compact would open up Wisconsin for the opportunity to have nurses from other states in the eNLC practice here, thus increasing our number of RNs. It would also give nurses more mobility and the ability to treat a more broad range of patients.
In a national climate where access to quality and affordable health care is in jeopardy, I believe that a fluid model of health practice is needed to ensure that patients find the personalized care that works best for them. Nurses play a critical role in our health care system, and they should be able to practice in a variety of environments in order to administer care for an increasingly diverse set of patients. No related legislation has yet been officially introduced on this topic, but I will certainly be looking out for bills related to the issue.
Roosevelt School Apartments
The Roosevelt Elementary School building has been a mainstay of the North Side of La Crosse for almost a century, even after the school closed its doors a few years ago. The building will remain in the neighborhood for years to come, thanks to a public-private partnership that helped renovate and transform it into affordable housing units.
I had the honor of attending and speaking at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Roosevelt School Apartments this Wednesday. I believe this project will be a great step in revitalizing the neighborhood. In fact, I was provided proof of the good this project will do for the community when I heard a smart, skilled young person I know will be moving into one of the new apartments. He and the many others like him are exactly the bright young minds we need to retain in La Crosse.
Boys and Girls Club Receives Grant
Congressman Ron Kind and I celebrated with kids and staff members of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater La Crosse on Wednesday, as AT&T presented a check for $15,000 to help the Club expand its "Be Great: Graduate" program. The program focuses on assisting high school students to graduate, as well as providing support by connecting students with adult mentors as they prepare for college or employment. If you're interested in becoming a mentor, contact the Boys and Girls Club.
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