April 10, 2015
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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.
On Monday, April 13, there will be a public hearing in each county starting at 7 p.m. where individuals interested in the management of our public lands, waters, and wildlife have an opportunity to provide their input to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Natural Resources Board and the Conservation Congress on proposed rule changes and advisory questions relating to fish and wildlife management in Wisconsin. County residents also have the option to run for election to the Conservation Congress and to elect delegates from their county to represent their county views regarding land and water management.
19th Annual Beer Tasting
Date: Thursday, April 23 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Location: Bay View
Sample exciting and
inventive beers from Wisconsin's many craft breweries. The event will
feature dinner and a live auction. All proceeds will provide enrichment
programs for families and seniors and supply the Bay View Community
Center's food pantry. Tickets are required and are $35 through March 31,
$40 after April 1, and $40 at the door.
The South Shore Yacht Club
2300 E Nock Street Milwaukee, WI 53207
Cudahy High School
Cudahy, WI 53110
Bullying: Making Friends, Not Enemies
Cudahy, WI 53110
Milwaukee Art Museum
700 N Art Museum Dr, Milwaukee, WI 53202
200 N Harbor Dr
Dear Wisconsin Neighbor,
It was a pleasure to see everyone that came out to the town halls in our community last week and it was inspiring to hear from so many concerned neighbors from across Wisconsin. I'd like to thank everyone who attended for sharing their input on important topics.
Many expressed their concerns with some of the damaging provisions in the governor's budget. Recently, the nonprofit Wisconsin Budget Project has suggested alternative budgeting choices Wisconsin could make, that I think you'll be interested in. These options prove that responsible, sustainable budgeting is possible. I have a summary below.
Also, two key days of recognition are
coming up: Equal Pay Day and Earth Day.
Read on to learn more about
these important topics, including local activities to get involved.
|Conversations in the Community|
you to the many neighbors of the 7th Senate District who joined me at
last week's listening sessions. It was encouraging to see so many
community members take an active role in bettering our community. I
appreciate the perspectives that were shared.
Important topics were brought up, many of which pertained to the 2015-2017 state budget, proposed by Governor Walker. The concerns expressed echoed those we have heard statewide at the various budget public hearings and listening sessions. It is my hope the Republican majority will take the concerns of our neighbors seriously and fix the many things wrong with this budget.
Investing in K-12 and Higher
At the town hall in South Milwaukee, an elementary school teacher asked about the teacher licensing changes proposed by the governor. She asked, "Where did this proposal come from and why does the governor think people who have no training in best practices on how to actually teach to the individual needs of a student, let alone a classroom of up to 30 or 35 kids, should be a fully licensed teacher just because they can pass a basic test?" Since the budget was introduced I've had numerous conversations with teachers and prospective educators about this proposal. Allowing individuals -- who do not have the same skills as teachers currently must have -- to teach is a bad idea for Wisconsin and undervalues the years of instruction and continuing education that develop qualified, professional educators.
A concerned parent brought up the issue of the removal of the cap on taxpayer funds that go to private voucher schools. This move will cost the state at least $17.2 million, on top of the billion-plus dollars already thrown at this failed experiment.
In addition to the problems with our K-12 education budget, there were also concerns regarding state's renowned UW System. At the town hall at the Urban Ecology Center about 15 professors, from both public and private universities, spoke passionately about how the cuts will have a negative economic impact on Wisconsin. They are worried it will increase a "brain drain" of talented professors leaving UW System schools for other states. Wisconsin already pays salaries about 18% below the national average.
Cutting funding to the UW System is not only bad for education, but damages our economy as a whole. Each year the UW System has a positive economic impact of over $15 billion for the state of Wisconsin. This is a phenomenal return on our $1.2 billion annual investment. As we continue to lag the nation in economic recovery, gutting $300 million from our state's largest economic driver is a dangerously irresponsible approach.
Maintaining a Strong Long-Term Care System
I also heard from many individuals
who benefit from, work for, or have a loved one served by Wisconsin's
nationally recognized long-term care programs. The compelling stories
told by these families shed light on how horrendous the proposed changes
to long-term care in Wisconsin are.
At the town hall in South Milwaukee, an IRIS participant shared her experience with the program, and concerns about the proposed changes. She asked, "will I be able to keep my current service providers?" She explained this is important to her because they know her needs and are really apart of what she considers her family.
In the budget, the governor eliminated the IRIS program entirely and is proposing to change the entire model of Family Care -- which would likely force most of the current Managed Care Organizations around the state who provide these services to close. Instead, services would be delivered by a new statewide care organization, leaving the potential for just a couple large, profit-focused insurance companies in charge of long-term care in Wisconsin.
At the South Shore Pavilion, I heard from a Family Care worker who said that participants in these programs are worried about the negative impacts these changes could have on their daily lives. There is uncertainty around things as vital as being able to keep their doctor.
Aside from the
negative impacts it could have on the individuals who rely on these
programs, the worker also explained the change to profit caps. The current expectation for
Managed Care Organizations in the
system is that annual profits must be below
Shared, Public Lands and Waters
One value that our community has always expressed their commitment to is the conservation of our shared, public lands and waters. Therefore, it was not surprising to hear from neighbors who are upset about the destructive provisions included in the 2015-17 state budget pertaining to our environment. In fact, this budget is likely the worst for our environment in state history.
For instance, the governor's budget disinvests in our state parks; raises fees for camping, entrance, and use of state parks; allows our parks to be sold to private organizations; and allows for park names to be sponsored by corporations. This opens the door to Devil's Lake State Park, and other state parks, being renamed to Koch Industries State Park.
At the town hall at the Urban Ecology Center, several people raised the issue of Downer Woods, a beloved urban wild area, and what would happen to it. They wondered, "could it be bought and sold to a for-profit corporation for development, or could the state try to make money off of it by selling naming rights to the woods?"
This is a valid concern, and one that I hope will be reversed when the Joint Finance Committee starts making changes to the budget in the upcoming weeks.
Many expressed strong disapproval of the cuts to the Warren Knowles-Gaylord Nelson Stewardship Fund included in the governor's budget. This program is an important part of Wisconsin's outdoor heritage as it prioritizes state investment in land for the public to enjoy.
An outdoor enthusiast, who came to
the South Shore Pavilion, asked"why does the budget fire
scientists and environmental experts that help the state make
informed decisions?" This was another excellent point, as these
scientists play a vital role in helping to make sure we are safeguarding
our health, preserving vital habitat, and monitoring pollution in our
state in a responsible manner.
Save SeniorCare and Strengthen BadgerCare
Our state's health care programs were also a topic of discussion at the town halls. One of the provisions included in the budget, that our neighbors largely disapprove of, is the attack on the SeniorCare program. The governor's budget cuts SeniorCare funding by $15 million and forces all SeniorCare participants to sign up for Medicare Part D -- a move which would reduce patient coverage and increase costs.
SeniorCare has earned widespread support because it is a responsible program that serves the health care needs of seniors in a way that makes the best possible use of scarce state and federal funds. Our neighbors in the 7th Senate District and around the state do not understand why this program is under attack."Why fix a program that works, and is tailored to the needs of Wisconsin citizens?" was a common question at the town halls.
Instead, lawmakers ought to be supporting this popular and important program that ensures our seniors are able to purchase the medicine they need. Doing otherwise could force our parents and grandparents to have to choose between groceries and their lifesaving medicine.
Another question that was asked was, "is the governor taking the Medicaid expansion money?" It was disappointing to have to answer "no" and explain the governor continues to refuse health care coverage to more people at a lower cost to the state by rejecting additional federal Medicaid dollars. Interestingly, the Wisconsin Budget Project recently did a blog post on how accepting the federal money would help solve some of the current problems in the governor's budget.
Responsible Budget is Possible
After hearing the concerns from neighbors in our community and from across the state, it is clear we need to make sure our budget is a reflection of our state's shared values. Budgets are statements of our priorities and with continued lagging job growth and our shrinking middle class, legislators must recognize that the failed policies of the last several years are not working. Instead, we need to move our state forward in a way that promotes prosperity and economic opportunity for our friends, family, and neighbors.
In Wisconsin, we have traditionally prided ourselves on making smart investments in our future. This means ensuring quality education -- K-12 and higher -- as well as prioritizing policies that benefit the majority in our state, not just a few.
Unfortunately, the actions of the
governor and legislative Republicans over the past several years have
dismantled our progressive history, choosing the few over the many. This
has led us to a self-inflicted $2.2 billion deficit, and while the
governor may be trying to create a narrative that cutting things like
education and the Stewardship Fund are necessary, that is simply not the
case. If we prioritize basic needs and invest in our values, Wisconsin
can create a budget that works for everyone.
Saving Money By Accepting our Fair Share of Federal BadgerCare Money
WBP also put together a chart to
help show the magnitude of these savings and examples of what proposed
cuts in the budget bill could be avoided by expanding BadgerCare if we
accept our fair share of federal funds.
(Click to enlarge)
This corporate tax giveaway reduces
income taxes for certain corporations, whether or not they create a
single job in our state. According to the WBP, when the
credit is fully enacted in 2017, many manufacturing and agriculture
businesses will not have to pay any state incomes taxes at all,
and others will have their income taxes reduced by at least 95%.
Given the much larger cost to
taxpayers than what was originally planned for, Wisconsin legislators
must find better balance of our resources. One option is to eliminate
the tax giveaway altogether, however given our political climate, that
would be unlikely. A second option would be to freeze the tax shift to
the 2014 level. The WBP projects this would increase state revenues by
$226 million over the next two years.
It is unfair for Wisconsinites to pay
for a tax giveaway that gives them very little in return and, as stated,
doesn't guarantee a single new job. By accepting our fair share of Medicaid dollars, as well as
freezing this corporate giveaway, Wisconsin would have an additional
$571 million to invest to make Wisconsin a stronger, more prosperous
The school levy tax credit is not allowed to be invested in our kids' classrooms, rather, it can only be used to affect property taxes. A major flaw in the school levy tax credit is it does not target help to Wisconsin's homeowners. As a result, 49% of those who pay less in taxes due to the school levy tax credit are nonresidents of Wisconsin or corporations. In the current budget proposal, this translates to about $103 million going toward corporate welfare or individuals who are out-of-state residents.
According to another WBP report,
"...the largest credits go to the owners of the most expensive
properties within a municipality. And on a per-student basis, the
credits enjoyed by the property owners in the wealthiest school
districts are almost seven times larger than the ones received by
property owners in the poorest districts..."
In fact, the WBP says, "The value of the Homestead Credit has declined in recent years -- by $32 million between 2006 and the projected amount for 2017. That's a decrease of 23% from the credit's 2006 value. And partly because the income ceiling for qualifying for the Homestead Credit is frozen, the number of people with low incomes who benefit from the property tax cut has decreased. In fiscal year 2013, the number of Wisconsin residents who benefited from the Homestead Credit was the lowest in a decade: 223,000."
I believe if we were to make a responsible budget, we should use that $103 million, that currently Wisconsin families do not receive, and restore the $32 million that has been cut from the Homestead Credit since 2006. Doing this would provide a meaningful, fair tax adjustment to those who truly need it.
|Ask Chris: What Can I do to Recognize Earth Day?|
I often have neighbors contact me looking for my perspective on various local and state issues. I very much appreciate our neighbors' questions and want to dedicate a portion of my newsletter to common questions that I hear to maintain an open dialogue. Please continue reading for this week's question.
Earth Day was founded by Gaylord
Nelson, a former Wisconsin Governor and U.S. Senator dedicated to
cleaning up polluted waterways, protecting natural resources, creating
green jobs, and bolstering the state's recreation infrastructure.
|Equal Pay Day is April 14|
Tuesday, April 14 is Equal Pay Day.
Equal Pay Day was originated by the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE)
in 1996 as a public awareness event to illustrate the gap between men's
and women's wages. This is an important day of awareness for all Americans as it brings
attention to the hardworking American women earning less than their male
counterparts. Equal Pay Day was intentionally placed on a Tuesday to
represent the fact that women must work a week and into Tuesday of the
next week to earn the amount men make in just one week of work, as women
receive only 77 cents for every dollar a man is paid.
When hardworking Wisconsin women are not compensated fairly, all Wisconsinites are affected as this gap in pay limits the freedom and opportunity of our families to live out their American dream. The majority of Wisconsin women are either primary or co-breadwinners in their family. Therefore, as long as women in our state are making an average of $10,000 less than men each year, Wisconsin's middle class will continue to suffer.
So what has Wisconsin done to ensure women are paid equally for equal work? Unfortunately, the Republican-controlled Legislature has actually sent Wisconsin backwards in recent years. In 2009, Wisconsin led the nation by passing the Equal Pay Enforcement Act, legislation to give gender discrimination victims an avenue on the state level to recoup damages and deter bad actors from such discrimination. Before the Act, Wisconsin ranked 36th in the country when it came to closing the gender pay gap. Just a year after the law passed, Wisconsin's ranking improved by 12 spots, moving to 24th in the nation.
Shocking the nation, legislative Republicans rejected Wisconsin's tradition of fairness by voting to roll back equal protection laws for Wisconsin's working women by passing 2011 Wisconsin Act 219. The adoption of this proposal eliminates equal protection laws for Wisconsin's women and limits their ability to seek justice for discrimination. This bill not only halted much needed steps towards equal pay for equal work, but also erased prior advances that have been made. As a result, the freedom and opportunity of Wisconsin's women and their families has been restricted.
Legislative Democrats introduced legislation last session to re-adopt the Equal Pay Enforcement Act. Unfortunately, Senate Republicans voted against taking up this fairness legislation. Even so, our work on ensuring equality and fairness in Wisconsin is not done. I will continue to advocate for these things as we continue the 2015-2016 Legislative Session.
|Young Professionals Week|
From April 11to April 18, 2015, Milwaukee will be one of the host communities involved in Young Professionals Week. Young Professionals Week is a seven-day convention that takes place in many Wisconsin communities, including Milwaukee, Madison, Kenosha, Green Bay, and many others.
Young Professionals Week is full of
exploration and learning as participants get to explore a wide range of
art, culture, and business while interacting with established
professionals and key leaders throughout an array of industries. The
activities span from yoga and fitness workshops in the morning to active
discussions with business leaders to art tours and ballets in the
evening. It is guaranteed that you will be able to find something that
sparks your interest, whether it is something you have never tried
before or an age-old passion.
Harley-Davidson and Robert W. Baird companies have both landed spots on
Wisconsin's 10 Best Places to Work for Young Professionals and deserve
to be recognized for the tremendous work that they do to foster growth
in the professional field for young people.
Below are the times and dates of the activities that are taking place within the 7th Senate District and a brief description, provided by the Young Professionals website, that accompanies each.
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