Larson Report 
NEWSLETTER

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A Capitol Update from State Senator Chris Larson 

Dear Wisconsin Neighbor,

I hope your week is going well.

With summer in full swing, there has been a lot of great opportunities to be out and about with you and our neighbors recently. I was grateful to see the on-the-ground effort to feed kids in our community at Cass Street School. Through a federal USDA program, the Milwaukee Public Schools summer meal program services thousands of children throughout the city who may otherwise go without nutritious food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

I was also honored to present a former intern in my office, Mike, with a legislative commendation at his Eagle Scout Court of Honor.

This week's Larson Report will provide an update on where things are at with the state budget as well as discuss some exciting Democratic proposals that have recently been introduced.

Also, I want to continue to hear from you about the state issues you care most about. My staff and I will again be in the neighborhood handing out our 2017 Neighborhood Survey for the next few months.


 
In Service, 

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Continuing to Voice our Values

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Budgets are declarations of our state's priorities. We must do all we can to ensure that we end up with a budget that promotes prosperity and economic opportunity for all of our friends, family, and neighbors, especially those dealt out of their chance at the American Dream.

While we still don't know what the final state budget will look like, I'll be looking to make sure it, and any efforts to amend it, supports the following shared values:

  • Quality Education for All
    Every child deserves a quality education. After the largest cuts in state history, we must prioritize proven policies that fully and fairly invest in our neighborhood schools. 

  • A Healthy Environment for our Future
    Our state has a rich history of being a leader in conservation to ensure a healthy environment for our citizens. We must work together to find long-term solutions that will ensure the future health and prosperity of our people and planet.

  • Affordable, High-quality Health Care for All
    You and your family deserve to be able to see a doctor when you get sick as well as get regular check-ups to prevent chronic illnesses. A healthy economy is dependent on a healthy workforce. Wisconsin needs fair health care options to best promote a good quality of life for us all. 

  • Fair Workplaces and Wages
    No Wisconsinite should work full-time and still live in poverty nor should they be forced to choose between their paycheck and caring for a sick loved one. Workers are the true economic engine of Wisconsin and deserve to be treated as such. 

So, Where is the Budget at Currently?
The budget was due June 30th. It has now been almost a month since the state budget was supposed to be passed. Yet, Republicans, who have implemented anti-democratic mechanisms to cling to power since 2011, cannot agree which special interest groups will get the most benefit this time around. After years of invite-only town halls and backroom deal-making, the GOP- controlled Legislature is at an impasse and are unable to get to a budget that satisfies all of the corporate interests that are clamoring for their piece of a record setting $76 billion pie. So, round & round we go with no end in sight.

At the center of this issue: education and transportation. Finding a sustainable transportation solution is crucial for Wisconsin. Senate Republicans, however, would rather continue dangerous borrowing and kicking the can further down the road. Unfortunately, when businesses look at Wisconsin and see deteriorating infrastructure and dysfunctional leadership, they are less likely to bring good jobs here.

In a recent editorial, Neil Heinen of Channel 3 in Madison noted, "Businesses, investors, and entrepreneurs are not exactly lined up waiting to locate or expand here.

They’ve probably seen our roads and our curious inability to agree on common sense ways to fix them and questioned the wisdom of moving here."

There's one thing Republicans can agree on, and it's giving even more tax breaks to the wealthy. While those in control of our state are arguing about how to shortchange our kids or how to stop putting more and more debt onto the state's credit card, there is no GOP push back or squabbling happening when it comes to our state's top earners quietly pocketing more, without paying their fair share. The Senate GOP plan, for instance, provides additional tax breaks to those making $200,000 to $500,000 per year as the rest of us are left to pick up the tab. 


As the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee hasn't even met since June 15, the state budget is making history in terms of tardiness. Over the past 40 years, the last time a state budget was even remotely this late was when party control was split. Further, Wisconsin is among the last three states that have yet to pass a budget.

Wisconsin Republicans are failing to lead and failing to govern and local governments still can’t plan for the cuts bound to be again 
dealt to local communities and schools.

Investing in our Children's Future Continues to be at Stake
Our local schools, communities, and Wisconsin as a whole are feeling the pressure with the budget being dragged out. Just this week, the Onalaska School District voiced concerns about the overdue budget and the impact it is having on their schools as they try to prepare for the next school year. According to the LaCrosse Tribune, the school district approved a new staffing plan, which is contingent on how much of the state budget will be given to our neighborhood schools. Here's what Onalaska Superintendent Fran Finco said to the local paper:

"Everything is up in the air. We don't know whether there will be additional money. We have to budget as if there won't be."

As noted by Superintendent Finco, the Republican infighting has resulted in competing proposals being released week after week with no indication on where things will ultimately land. This uncertainty makes it even harder for our local schools to plan their own budgets. Unfortunately, as we learn more about the various proposals, specifically as they pertain to education, our neighbors are growing increasingly concerned for our children’s future.

For instance, the Senate Republican plan fails to invest in struggling rural schools; while at the same time making it harder for our local communities to decide to make stronger investments in their schools by limiting when our neighborhoods can take up school referendums. Specifically, the Senate GOP proposal bars local communities from holding most school district referendums unless it is a regularly scheduled spring or fall election. Despite criticism from local communities, this provision is just one in a series of GOP attempts to restrict the ability of our neighbors to invest in our schools.

The Senate Republican proposal also again expands the statewide voucher scheme, a move that, according to a memo released by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau could result in property taxes ballooning. The memo shows that local costs to fund the statewide voucher program will reach $120.3 million, a staggering increase up from an already hefty $43.1 million cost. As my colleagues have indicated in their press release, this could triple our local property taxes.

As a reminder, this irresponsible increase in property taxes will include no explanation as to why your hard-earned money is being handed over to unaccountable private voucher schools -- an important transparency right that our neighbors deserve.

Recently, I introduced a legislative proposal to ensure our neighbors know how much of their money is going to fund private vouchers, but the measure was blocked by the Republican-controlled Legislature. In addition, there will be no way for local communities to weigh-in on whether or not they want more of their money to go towards unaccountable vouchers in their neighborhoods.

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a nonpartisan government watchdog group, recently weighed in on this issue with a press release. In it, they remind us that between January 2010 and December 2016, mostly out-of-state voucher interests flooded our campaigns with $8.5 million, nearly all of which went to Republican candidates. It is clear the Wisconsin GOP is more concerned with campaign dollars than good governance.

This is an irresponsible and dangerous proposal that siphons away even more of our neighbors’ hard-earned money (on top of the $1 billion already given away to voucher interests), and puts our children’s future in jeopardy. Our kids deserve better and should not have to suffer because of the actions of the Republican-controlled Legislature. 

Continuing to be a Strong Voice for our Shared Environment 
In the absence of a state budget, Democrats have been talking with our neighbors and working hard to continue introducing proposals that Wisconsinites care about, that will create stronger communities, and that will invest in our economy. 

As an example, I recently circulated a bill for co-sponsorship that would ensure Wisconsin is a good steward of our shared lands and waters by complying with greenhouse gas emission reduction targets under the Paris climate agreement.

With over 97% of climate scientists agreeing that humans are causing climate change, we need serious, common sense strategies now. Our state has a rich history of being a leader in conservation and innovative programs to ensure a healthy environment not only for our citizens today but also for our children and grandchildren in the future. 

A Wisconsin state-based plan to fight climate change that includes a stronger commitment to developing and implementing renewable energy would be an economic infusion in our state and would signal to the world that we are ready to take on the economic opportunities of being a leading player in the effort to mitigate climate change. While our state is barren of fossil fuels, we have rich, untapped renewable energy resources. A plan that invests in our energy independence would end the out-of-state fossil fuel purchases of coal, oil, and natural gas that siphon money from our own economy.


It is time for Wisconsin to join a growing coalition of states and territories including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington that are committed to honoring the Paris Accord. This growing coalition already represents 32% of the U.S. population. As elected representatives of the people of Wisconsin, we hold a sacred commitment to our communities to find long-term solutions that will ensure the future health and prosperity of our people and planet.

Wisconsin leaders must think strategically and creatively about how we move our state forward. Another great example of legislation that does this is Rep. Melissa Sargent's Legalize Opportunity proposal. 

Wisconsinites know that a devastating budget crisis is looming over our heads. If we've learned anything over the past several weeks, it's that our state has a severe budget problem and Republicans have no tangible solutions.

Rep. Sargent's bill would fully legalize marijuana in Wisconsin. We are increasingly seeing public support for broader marijuana legalization. In fact, 26 states around the country, are seeing the positive economic impacts of marijuana legalization.

In her email to legislators asking for co-sponsors, Rep. Sargent noted "the economic boom resulting from full legalization in Colorado: in 2015 alone, the state saw $1 billion in marijuana sales and more than 18,000 new jobs. Marijuana in Colorado generates more per dollar in economic output and employment than 90 percent of the state’s other industries. It is also estimated that by 2020, marijuana will also be the state’s highest excise revenue source."

This bill demonstrates the much-needed innovation that Wisconsinites are eager for, which is why I am proud to be a co-sponsor of this proposal. For more information about this proposal, click here. 

What are your Priorities for Wisconsin? 
I look forward to continuing to work together on important issues to improve our communities and make Wisconsin a better place to live and work for our family, friends, and neighbors.

I consider it a privilege to have the opportunity to serve our neighbors in Cudahy, Oak Creek, St. Francis, South Milwaukee, Milwaukee, and Franklin. Soon, I'll be walking around the neighborhood to talk with neighbors in the 7th Senate District in order to hear more about the concerns and hopes our community members have for our state. 

Likewise, I'll be dropping off a new neighborhood survey, asking about important state and community issues. Your input is greatly appreciated and will help me prepare for the remainder of this session. I have also made the survey available online. 

I look forward to hearing your views on these important issues! As always, please do not hesitate to contact me about any state or community matters important to you.


Take Action!
TAKE ACTION.pngAs mentioned above, I have signed on as a co-sponsor to Rep. Melissa Sargent's recently unveiled bill that would legalize marijuana in Wisconsin, creating new opportunities for our neighbors and providing a solution to the budget crisis afflicting our state. Legalizing marijuana means legalizing opportunity and prosperity!


Join the call for the legalization of marijuana in Wisconsin. Contact your state legislators today at 1-800-362-9472 and ask them to support LRB 2457. 


In Case You Missed It
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Each week, the Larson Report strives to provide up-to-date, in-depth information to its readers. Between editions, a lot happens in Madison and our Wisconsin communities. I want to make sure you know the most pressing issues facing our neighborhoods across the state. Below are some of the top stories from the past couple of weeks.
  • Moving Backward on Health Care
    With 394,100 Wisconsinites at-risk of losing coverage, I am disappointed that federal Republicans would blindly vote in favor to proceed with efforts to take away health care. I am disappointed that Wisconsin's Ron Johnson cast the 50th vote, allowing the U.S. Senate to move forward with dismantling the Affordable Care Act. Be sure to keep an eye on my Facebook page for further updates on this topic. 

  • Foxconn Frenzy: Proceed with Caution 
    Our neighbors care about making sure this is a good deal for everyone in Wisconsin. Any move for Foxconn to locate in Wisconsin must also fit with the spirit of our great state. We look to partner with companies that will respect our state’s shared lands and waters. We should reward companies that pay our neighbors a living wage and treat them fairly. If they expect special treatment, they need to have a long-term commitment to our state, so we know they won’t abandon Wisconsin as soon as a new enticement is dangled before them from somewhere else.

    Wisconsin leaders should not commit our citizens to corporate welfare or anything that carves out special exceptions in our laws, especially if it will unfairly hurt local businesses already in our state.

    Too many people in our state are already struggling in low-wage jobs and living in fear that any day the security of health care could be pulled out from under them. They deserve leaders who will be looking out for their future.

    It is with good reason that Wisconsinites are not willing to blindly put their faith, and money, in a feeble jobs promise. We’ve been deceived by Governor Walker’s political promises before. All we have right now is a slew of big promises from a governor, president, and company that have a clear track record of breaking promises. They grandstanded and snatched their headlines. Now, let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work on going through the details, holding a public hearing, and having a transparent process so that we can all be part of making sure Wisconsin gets a fair deal.


    Since taking office, Walker has left us a trail of broken promises. His pattern of deception has resulted in our hard-earned tax dollars being handed over to campaign donors and companies that outsource, as well as some of the biggest tax breaks going to the richest people in the state, some of whom have used tax loopholes to avoid paying any state income tax for years.

    We demand a return to basic fairness, and that’s what we’ll be looking for in this deal. Click here for more on this issue. 

  • GOP Proposing to Add More Debt to State Credit Card
    The Senate GOP is proposing we continue to kick the can even further down our crumbling, pothole-covered roads. Their plan calls for a staggering $712 million in new borrowing.

    Since 2011, Walker and the Republican-controlled Legislature have borrowed $2.5 billion.

    Just like not checking your mailbox won't make your credit card bill disappear, the Senate GOP proposal fails to provide a long-term transportation funding solution. Read more about this topic, here. 

  • Don't Expand Private School Vouchers 
    Republicans want to expand the unaccountable voucher program by increasing eligibility. At the same time, our neighborhood schools aren’t getting enough to fill the historic budget hole created by the GOP a few years ago. 

    I recently shared on my Facebook page an editorial regarding this topic from the Wisconsin State Journal. 

From the editorial: “Handing government vouchers to higher-income families can’t be justified when the state is struggling to afford a modest increase in funding for public schools after years of tight spending limits.”

I will continue to push against this irresponsible and unnecessary budget proposal and I pledge to continue to fight to fully invest in our children and our local schools.

For instance, this May, I introduced the Community Schools Act.
The community schools model promotes student learning, strengthens families, and creates healthier communities by offering services like physical and mental health care, after-school care, academic mentoring, and family support. Although this bill has been in the Committee on Education for over a month, the Republican committee chair has failed to schedule it for a public hearing and vote. Read the editorial, here. 

  • Fighting to Protect Homeless Veterans 
    Honoring those who have served in our nation’s armed forces must be a priority. Their service and sacrifice to safeguard our freedoms are a debt we owe these brave men and women.

    The Wisconsin American Legion recently called on state legislators to take immediate action to save Wisconsin’s homeless veterans housing program. It was announced last week that the loss in federal funding would eliminate Wisconsin’s homeless veterans housing programs at the King and Union Grove medical facilities. It remains uncertain if a similar program at Chippewa Falls will be a casualty as well.

    The loss of this program will be devastating to homeless veterans in Wisconsin. Yesterday, I signed on to a bipartisan letter to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs strongly urging them to reconsider their decision to strip away funding for these services.

    If you want to help advocate for funding for these vital programs, please contact your federal representatives today! See the Wisconsin American Legion statement, here.

  • UW Journey Mobile App Released!
    Wisconsin has no shortage of excellent higher education options, from our world-class UW System schools to our top-notch technical colleges.

    Now, exploring your higher education opportunities just got a lot easier.

    A recently launched mobile app lets prospective students find a UW System campus that best meets their needs. The app, called UW Journey, guides students through the 26 UW System campuses, helping them find a campus that matches their career goals, extracurricular interests, lifestyle, and more.
    Through UW Journey, students can also sign up for alerts about important dates, such as when admission opens, ACT test days, and financial aid deadlines. Learn more about the new app, here.

  • Embarrassing Trump Rant at Boy Scouts of American Jamboree
    Like many of you, I was deeply disappointed that President Trump violated the nonpartisan spirit of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) at their national Jamboree. Disdaining the opportunity to talk about positive civic engagement, a cornerstone of scouting, Trump launched into yet another incoherent mudslinging rant, acting more like a raunchy has-been comedian than a statesperson. It was grossly inappropriate and embarrassing.

    The BSA is comprised of scouts from families of all backgrounds and political ideologies. It is a tradition to invite the current United States President to address the scouts that have assembled to enjoy the experiences and fellowship that the National Jamboree can offer. Except for Trump, when our presidents have addressed the thousands of young men and women, they have sought to inspire and challenge.

    As mentioned in the beginning of this report, I have the opportunity to write and present commendations for boy scouts who have earned the rank of Eagle Scout and to girl scouts that have earned the Gold Star Award. As a former boy scout, I know and appreciate the work and effort that goes into attaining these prestigious honors. As a state senator, if I have the honor to be present and help recognize their achievement, the last thing I would think to do is make my comments partisan or political. As an elected official I know that moment is about honoring their work and asking them to take the next step to aim even higher and to continue to selflessly serve their community and neighbors.

    It is my hope that the scouts and families that endured Trump’s rant, and those across Wisconsin that are distressed and disgusted by this unfortunate event, remain true to their positive values of civility and positive civic engagement. The reckless disregard for common decency by our current president serves to remind all of us that now more than ever, the tenants of the scout law and oath are vital for safeguarding our communities and democracy.

    I was glad to see that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial section focused on this also -- you can read it, here.

 

Events in the Community 

Supporting our neighbors and being involved in our community is of the utmost importance. Some community events that might be of interest to you and your family are listed below.


FUEL Summer Splash Boat Cruise
Thursday, July 27 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
FUEL Milwaukee, a community engagement organization for young professionals and those new to the neighborhood, is sponsoring a summer boat cruise along the Lake Michigan waterfront. This relaxing evening of networking, relaxing, and skyline views departs from 101 West Michigan Street at Milwaukee Boat Line's Primary Dock.

South Milwaukee Heritage Days

Monday, July 24 to Sunday, July 30, 2017
Take part in this annual tradition that celebrates the history and vibrant community of South Milwaukee! Events include the 16th Annual D.A.R.E. Golf Outing, organized by the South Milwaukee Police Department's D.A.R.E. program, an Ice Cream Social and Band Concert, Firehouse Spaghetti Dinner with accordion musician Val Sigal, and more. Of course, don't forget to join me and 100 local groups to finish off Heritage Days on Saturday, July 29, 11 a.m. at the Heritage Days Parade. The parade will begin at the corner of Milwaukee Avenue and 8th Avenue, continue westward on Milwaukee to 16th Avenue, and turn north to end at the South Milwaukee Lionfest.

 

Patrick Cudahy Race for the Bacon
Thursday, July 27 from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Is there a better combination than running and bacon? We don't think so. Join us for the 5th annual Patrick Cudahy Race for the Bacon 5k and 0k Run/Walk at Sheridan Park in Cudahy. The course is flat and scenic, and the post-race Bacon Bash party is full of bacon-y delights. Your race entry includes a ticket to the Bacon Bash and one free drink. Get the bacon and the cool shirt, but without the 5k. We will even have a start/finish for all 0k participants.

 

German Fest 2017
Friday, July 28 from 3 p.m. to Midnight
Saturday, July 29 from Noon to Midnight
Sunday, July 30 from Noon to 9 p.m.
German Fest features an extensive variety of traditional music, authentic food, a cultural village, children's activities, and much more. There will also be a home-brewed German beer competition and fireworks on Friday and Saturday nights.


Brady Street Festival
Saturday, July 29 from 11 a.m. to Midnight
Brady Street will be rockin' the night and day away with 4 stages packed with live entertainment, including some of your favorite local bands. Besides the awesome entertainment, the Division BMX Stunt Team, the Casablanca Rumble V Pro Wrestling Ring, and the Milwaukee Flyers will be present. A variety of vendors, local cheese makers at the Glorioso cheese tent, jewelry and pottery crafters, a vast array of food, and of course, ice cold beer to keep our crowds from getting too thirsty.

 

Bargain Book Sale @ Cudahy Family Library
Thursday, August 3, from Noon to 8 p.m. and Friday, August 4, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The Friends of Cudahy Library will be selling books, paperbacks, DVDs, CDs, VHS tapes, and much more at their Bargain Book Sale. Prices start at just $0.25 -- come find your treasures and then stay for the Cudahy National Night Out activities in the library parking lot.

 

National Night Out: City of Cudahy
Thursday, August 3 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
The Cudahy Police Department’s National Night Out celebration will host over 50 organizations with food and refreshments available for purchase, and the Cudahy Police, Fire, and Department of Public Works will be on hand. Come join your neighbors and celebrate the safety and strength of the city!