December 12, 2013
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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.
A Christmas Carol
Nineteenth century London comes to life when you and your family join
Tiny Tim, Bob Cratchit, and, of course, Ebenezer Scrooge on a
fantastical journey through Christmas Past, Present, and Future. Enjoy
the music, dancing, and timeless message of hope, peace, and love, as
the Dickens' classic masterpiece celebrates its 38th year at the
CLICK HERE or call (414) 224-9490 for more information.
Date: Now through Sun., December 29
Centerpiece to their season, Les Miserables is the show that inspired
Skylight to focus on freedom and revolution as a conversation through
the entire year. Set in 19th century France in the midst of revolution,
this timeless musical follows Jean Valjean on his quest for redemption
after being jailed for stealing a loaf of bread, inspector Javert who
relentlessly pursues parole violator Valjean, and an abundance of other
compelling and entertaining characters. Skylight looks forward to
producing this legendary, Tony Award-winning musical in the intimate
Cabot Theatre. This epic tale of passion and sacrifice will be a
phenomenal way to share live theatre with the family during this holiday
CLICK HERE or call (414) 291-7811 for more information.
Sheridan Park Centennial Raffle
Date: Now through Fri., February 14
Description: Enter the Sheridan Park Centennial Raffle for your chance to win a grand prize that includes a trip to New York, a tour of Central Park, and tickets to a Broadway play. This is a fundraising effort to help improve the park. Raffle tickets will be available beginning Friday, November 8 through Friday, February 14 at Joe's "K" Ranch, the Cudahy Library, City Hall, Cudahy Historical Society, Pulaski Inn, and through members of the Chamber of Commerce and Friends of Sheridan Park. The raffle drawing will take place during a Valentine's Day dinner on February 14 at Pulaski Inn. Tickets for the dinner will be available at Pulaski Inn. Raffle ticket holders do not need to be present in order to win. Support a great cause to improve Sheridan Park and buy your raffle tickets today.
Pulaski Inn (MAP)
3900 E. Pulaski Avenue Cudahy, WI 53110
Sat., December 14
through Sun., December 22
Milwaukee's magical holiday performance "The Nutcracker" is back for
another year. Enjoy this childhood wonder as toys come to life and
snowflakes begin to dance. Create memories of your own with this
performance that you cannot miss.
CLICK HERE or call (414) 273-7206 for more information or to
A Kick in the Dickens 2: More Stuff in the Stocking!
Now through Sat.,
The popular holiday comedy show returns to The Alchemist Theatre. This
time your evening will be packed with even more goodies, original songs,
hilarious comedy routines, and improvised silliness. Some of Milwaukee's
top improvisers, comedic actors, playwrights, and songwriters have come
together to create this fun- filled evening of holiday mayhem.
CLICK HERE or call (414) 426-4169 for more information or to
Dear Wisconsin Neighbor,
My Democratic colleagues and I continued our efforts this week to provide real financial relief by hosting a town hall on the Higher Ed, Lower Debt bill. This bill offers Wisconsin graduates the opportunity to refinance their student loans and deduct loan payments from their income tax for significant savings. Continue reading for more on this and other important issues including another Wisconsin and Minnesota comparison and an update on discriminatory legislation.
Study Shows Higher Ed, Lower Debt Bill Needed
Yesterday, I joined United Council of Students, One Wisconsin Institute, Wisconsin Jobs Now, and Wisconsin Voices at a Milwaukee town hall to discuss improving Wisconsin's student debt crisis. Senator Dave Hansen and Representative Cory Mason--authors of the Higher Ed, Lower Debt bill--also participated in the panel discussion by showing how their legislative proposal could help address many of the problems Wisconsin's student loan borrowers face after graduation.
Wisconsin Ranks 8th for Percentage of New Grads with Debt in Recent Study
The student debt crisis is very real here in Wisconsin.
According to the U.S. Federal Reserve
System, there are 753,000 Wisconsin residents with federal student loan
debt (this does not include those with private student loan debt).
Further, college tuition costs have doubled over the last 12 years. It
is estimated that Wisconsin residents paying student loans from
obtaining a bachelor's degree are currently paying an average of $388
per month for about 18.7 years.
The Institute for College Access and
Success released their latest annual state-by-state analysis, which
found that 68% of the Class of 2012 graduated from Wisconsin colleges
and university with student loan debt. This ranked Wisconsin No. 8
nationally for the percentage of new grads with debt. Wisconsin also
ranked No. 14 for the average amount of loan debt: $28,102. This report
is based on data estimates collected every four years by the federal
government, while also taking into account information voluntarily
reported by four-year public and private nonprofit colleges.
As you can see, this legislation
offers common sense solutions for real savings on behalf of
Wisconsinites managing student loan debt. We hope legislative
Republicans will see the economic value of moving forward with such a
proposal as Wisconsinites cannot afford to wait any longer for more
affordable college education and decreasing their debt burden.
Sign the Higher Ed, Lower Debt
Fast Facts on WI Student Debt Crisis
Here are some fast facts on why the Higher Ed, Lower Debt bill is needed in Wisconsin and how it would help student loan borrowers upon graduation:
A Tale of Two States
As neighboring states, Wisconsin and Minnesota have a lot in common. The people have similar Midwestern accents, the weather can be quite snowy, and the landscape is bountiful with farmland and lakes. Despite these similarities, Minnesota and Wisconsin have recently taken starkly different paths on a number of important issues.
Minnesota Hits Pre-Recession Employment Level
In September, it was reported that nearly four years after losing 150,00 jobs Minnesota has surpassed the employment level it had prior to the Great Recession. For Minnesota, slow and steady growth helped them recover. As of July 2013, there were eight states exceeding their pre-recession peak in jobs, including: Colorado, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia. Seven other states had cleared the hurdle but have subsequently fallen backward. Wisconsin is the only state neighboring Minnesota that has not erased its Great Recession jobs deficit of 170,000 nonfarm, seasonally adjusted jobs, according to analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
Wisconsin Takes Wrong Turn with Health Care Coverage
Wisconsin was bested by its neighbor
yet again when Minnesota opted to create their own exchange and take
federal dollars to provide health care coverage to 35,000 more people at
no additional cost. In contrast, Wisconsin rejected the federal health
care dollars it was offered and decided to move forward with the
federally-run exchange. It defies logic that extreme legislative
Republicans would choose to reject the opportunity to expand health care
coverage to nearly 85,000 more Wisconsinites, save the state $120
million over the biennium, and create approximately 10,500 new jobs.
The path our Republican leaders chose
has had a negative impact on the premium costs in Wisconsin compared to
those in Minnesota. In Minnesota, the average monthly premium across all
age groups will be $192. The next lowest average is in Tennessee at
$245, and the national average is $328. Unfortunately for Wisconsinites,
we will see average monthly premiums of $361. That is 88% higher than
the average premium in Minnesota. It is important to mention that the
average premium rates cited do not include possible premium discounts,
which could further lower premiums for lower- and middle-income
Minnesota Repays Education Fund With Surplus
The good news just keeps on coming for Minnesota. This month, Minnesota announced that their rebounding economy helped them to achieve a $1.08 billion surplus for the remainder of their biennial budget cycle. The state's budget office has already allocated a portion of that money with the first $246 million going to replace funding that was shifted away from K-12 schools. Another $15 million will be used to restore funds that were taken out of the state airport fund in 2008. After taking into account these budget obligations, Minnesota will be left with a surplus of $825 million. Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton has expressed interest in wanting to use this money to provide tax relief to businesses and the middle class. However, this plan is tentative based on subsequent economic forecasts at the beginning of 2014.
Wisconsin, on the other hand, treated
their surplus dollars far differently. We have sacrificed many of our
valued programs, under the guise of "job creation" and "economic
relief." You do not need to look any farther than the example of our
local public schools. After record cuts of $1.6 billion to K-12
education, legislative Republicans have done little to help restore
these lost funds. In fact, 210 of Wisconsin's 424 school districts, or
about 50%, have received less general aid in the current school year.
Governor Walker and legislative Republicans were given a number of
chances to repay these raided funds that educate Wisconsin's children,
yet such requests from Democratic leaders and fellow Wisconsinites
continue to go unanswered.
Minnesota proved that we do not have to create a values deficit in order to create jobs or provide tax relief. Having to choose between economic development and supporting our children's education is a false choice. With proper prioritizing and a trusted leader we can have both, and Minnesota is proof of that.
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.
A: Last month, the Wisconsin State Senate and Assembly took up this legislation, Assembly Bill 297, sending Wisconsin backwards in the fight to end discrimination of all kinds, including towards Native Americans across the state. This bill eliminates the current process allowing people to file complaints with the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) over race-based mascots and team names, and giving DPI the authority needed to enforce mascot changes at these schools.
In order for a bill to become law,
typically identical versions of the same bill must pass in both the
Senate and Assembly. As stated previously, this has already occurred for
the discriminatory mascot bill. After that, the bill is then sent to the
governor for his signature by a certain deadline. In the case of
Assembly Bill 297, the governor has until the end of the day on
Thursday, December 19 to sign or veto the bill. Should the governor
avoid taking either of these actions and simply ignore the bill, it will
automatically be published thus becoming law. That would mean Assembly
Bill 297 would go into effect on December 21, unless another effective
date is specified in the bill.
Did You Know...?
You may know that after Thanksgiving each year the Capitol puts up a decorated tree. But did you know that this year's tree is a 25-foot Balsam fir donated by Jim Draeger of Antigo, Wisconsin?
The tree arrived the Monday after Thanksgiving. On that first day, it is simply erected and allowed to rest and take in water. The tree then takes two to three days to decorate. It boasts 2,000 energy-saving LED multicolored lights and ornaments crafted by school children across Wisconsin in the theme "Wisconsin Traditions." There is even a tiny train that chugs around the base of the tree.
The Capitol selects Balsam firs
because their branches are more pliable, which allows for easy transport
and ensures they can fit through the door once they reach the Capitol
building. All labor and transport costs related to the tree were donated
by fellow Wisconsinites.
Giving Back to Our Community
The holiday season provides many opportunities to give back to our community. This winter, try volunteering in one of our local food pantries, neighborhood shelters, area health care organizations, or regional nonprofits. If you have one in mind, they likely post such opportunities on their Web site. If you want to see what is available in your community there are various Web sites that try to centralize volunteer opportunities located in your desired field of interest and Wisconsin region. More information about such Web sites is provided below:
The Volunteer Center of Greater Milwaukee--A program of the Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee, Inc., with a mission to promote the interests and effectiveness of the nonprofit sector through strengthening organizational capacity, expanding volunteerism, and encouraging collaboration. They centralize volunteer opportunities offered by nonprofits in the Milwaukee area.
Idealist--Connects people, organizations, and resources to help build a world where all people can live free and dignified lives. Idealist is independent of any government, political ideology, or religious creed. This is a good starting place for learning more about volunteer opportunities--whether you are looking to get involved in your own neighborhood or thousands of miles away.
Attention High School Juniors and Seniors: Apply to Senate Scholars Today
The Senate Scholars Program is an
intensive week-long education program offered by the Wisconsin State
Senate. This is a wonderful opportunity for Wisconsin youth to view the
role of the Legislature in democracy first hand and gain experience in
the areas of policy development, constituent relations and processing
legislation. Senate Scholars will also have the chance to work closely
with senators, legislative staff, and University of Wisconsin faculty.
Admission to the program is highly competitive and limited to 33
academically exceptional high school juniors and seniors from across the
state. Applications are due on Friday, January 3, 2014. Applicants will
then be notified of their acceptance on or shortly after January 17,
Take the 2013-2014 Neighborhood Survey
I created a survey for the 2013-2014
Legislative Session asking about various issues that are important to
our community and our state. The input of neighbors is greatly
appreciated. My staff and I will be working hard to deliver as many
surveys door to door as possible before winter arrives. In addition, I
have also made this survey available online.
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