Updates from the State Senate - February 6, 2017



Robert Cowles


Serving Wisconsin's 2nd Senate District







Fun Fact


"On, Wisconsin" was first said by Arthur MacArthur, Jr. in the Battle of Chattanooga at Missionary Ridge during the Civil War.




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Audit Identifies Potential Savings in the State Highway Program


On Thursday, January 26th,the Legislative Audit Bureau released an audit of the State Highway Program. The Joint Legislative Audit Committee, which I Co-Chair, approved the audit in October 2015. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) is responsible for planning, designing, constructing, and maintaining the 11,758 miles of Wisconsin’s state highways. The audit found some devastating results.

In the audit, LAB reviewed 35 ongoing and completed major highway projects. In the 19 completed projects reviewed, expenditures exceeded original estimates by nearly 111% or $772.5m. Amongst the 16 ongoing projects reviewed, estimated costs exceeded original estimates by $3.1 billion. In both circumstances, this is more than double original estimates. Unacceptable. Wisconsin taxpayers deserve accurate and complete estimates for their transportation projects. This audit should serve as a resource to tighten up DOT practices so that future cost estimates correctly reflect true costs.
Some other key findings include:

  • DOT could have potentially saved $191.9 million over six years if it had met its annual “on-budget” performance measure goals for state highway projects

  • DOT budgeted to complete more major highway project work than could be complete with its available funding

  • DOT did not take into account inflation in their estimated major highway project expenditures

  • The proportion of state highways rated in good condition decreased from 53.5% in 2010 to 41.0% in 2015


If you want to learn more about the audit, read my complete press release, view the audit highlights, listen to a segment about the audit on WHBY (1150 AM) or read this story on the audit from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.


District Listening Sessions

Representatives Gary Tauchen, David Steffen, Jim Steineke and I are pleased to announce three upcoming listening sessions in Northeast Wisconsin. We invite our constituents to express their opinions on state Legislative issues, including the budget or proposed legislation for the 2017-18 Legislative Session. Times and locations are as follows:
Friday, February 10th with Rep. Tauchen:

      Shawano City Hall     

      127 S. Sawyer St., Shawano

      Community Room

      3:30 PM to 7:00 PM


Friday, February 17th with Rep. Steffen:

      Ashwaubenon Village Hall

      2155 Holmgren Way, Ashwaubenon

      Village Board Room

      3:30 PM to 7:00 PM


Saturday, February 18th with Rep. Steineke:

      Kaukauna City Hall

      144 W. Second St., Kaukauna

      City Council Chambers

      1:00 PM to 4:00 PM

Leading on Lead Act

On February 2nd, I circulated the Leading on Lead Act in a move to help communities eliminate lead from drinking water service lines. LRB-1934 provides the opportunity for a water utility to provide financial assistance for replacing the lead service lines to a private residence. Currently, municipalities have very few options to assist customers in removing lead from their water. This option can help to most cost effectively complete the lead removal process in communities all across the state.


Lead is harmful; not only to children and pregnant women, but to everyone. We have this problem all over the state. We need to get these lead-laden drinking water service lines replaced. This legislation is a step in the right direction to give our local governments the control and flexibility they need. Utilizing the knowledge of our local governments and water utility professionals will lend a great deal of expertise in eradicating the lead in our drinking water.


 To learn more about the bill, read this article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.


H.O.P.E. Agenda


In 2014, more Wisconsinites died from drug overdoses than motor vehicle accidents. From 2004 to 2014, the number of drug overdose deaths doubled, and in 2014 nearly half of the 843 drug overdose deaths were from prescription opioid pain relievers. Wisconsin is facing a drug epidemic. On January 5th, in an effort to tackle this crisis, the Governor called the Legislature into Special Session to enact the Heroin Opiate Prevention and Education (HOPE) Agenda.
Led by Representative John Nygren, legislators got their first look at the content of the bills in the HOPE Agenda last week. These bills will put more focus on treatment and diversion programs, increase grants for graduate training in addiction specialties, and increase training for school district personnel to better address mental health issues, among other things. I have signed on as a co-sponsor to many of these bills, and look forward to working with my Legislative colleagues in addressing this crisis.


To read more about the opioid problem and the HOPE Agenda, click on the picture to the left.

Wisconsin State Capitol Centennial


Last Tuesday, January 31st, I joined all four living Governors, former and current Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices, former and current State Legislators and other dignitaries in celebrating the 100th birthday of the Wisconsin State Capitol at the Centennial Kickoff Celebration. To take a virtual tour of the State Capitol, learn about the building’s history, or watch for upcoming events to celebrate this major milestone, click on the picture to the right.


Governor Walker's Budget Address


Governor Walker is slated to unveil his proposal for the 2017-18 State Budget this Wednesday, February 8th at 4 PM. To follow the address, tune into Wisconsin Public Television, listen on Wisconsin Public Radio, or stream online.


Thanks For Reading!


Feel free to contact my office with any questions or concerns you may have,

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Senator Robert Cowles




Mailing Address: P.O. Box 7882, Madison, WI 53707-7882 | Office: 118 South, State Capitol

Office: (800) 334-1465 | District: (920) 448-5092 | Sen.Cowles@legis.wisconsin.gov