LARSON REPORT

WEEKLY NEWSLETTER


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February 12, 2015

     

 

CONTACT ME


Please feel free to contact me with any concerns or opinions you might have.

Office Phone: (608) 266-7505
Toll-free Phone: (800) 361-5487

Email:
Sen.Larson@legis.wi.gov

 

Mailing Address:

State Capitol
P.O. Box 7882
Madison, WI 53707

 

Website:

SenatorChrisLarson.com

 

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COMMUNITY EVENTS
 

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. 


 

 

18th Annual Festival of Films in French

Date: Friday, Feb. 6 to Sunday, Feb. 15

Location: Milwaukee

Description: As a part of UW-Milwaukee's "Year of the Humanities," the French Program will be screening 17 French films. This includes four special events: a day-long hip-hop dance and music program, featuring special guest Jean-Pierre Thorn, a classic double feature evening focusing on cinema and politics in 1930s France, an afternoon devoted to Claude Lanzmann�s most recent documentary, and Jacques Feyder's 1925 silent film, Mother, with live musical accompaniment. CLICK HERE for more information about the show.

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Union Theatre (MAP)
2200 East Kenwood Blvd.
Milwaukee, WI 53211

 

 

Milwaukee County Winter Farmers' Market
Date: Now through April 11, Saturday mornings, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Location: Milwaukee
Description: The Milwaukee County Farmers� Market will be held again this year at the Mitchell Park Domes. The Farmers' Market gives Wisconsin residents a great opportunity to shop for local produce from the 35 weekly vendors. Vendors provide a wide selection of fresh fruit, vegetables, dairy, bakery, poultry and meats all winter long. Free parking spaces are provided.
CLICK HERE for more information.


Mitchell Park Domes (MAP)
524 South Layton Blvd. Milwaukee, WI 53215

 

 

St. Ann Indoor Market

Date: Every Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. from now
through April 2015

Location: Milwaukee

Description: There are many great products sold including: Fresh, seasonal, natural, and organic produce; preserves; canned goods; handmade items; jams and jellies; soups; soaps; lotions and makeup; jewelry; household items; and more. They feature live music, family fun, and free coffee every week!

Purchases from the market support local vendors and the young, elderly, and clients with disabilities at the center.

 

St. Ann Center for Intergenerational Care (MAP)

2801 E. Morgan Ave. Milwaukee, WI 53207

 

South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center 10th Anniversary Performing Arts Series

Date: Starts Friday, Feb. 13, 2015 from 7:30 p.m. to 9:15 p.m., ends Friday, May 1, 2015
Location: South Milwaukee
Description: The Performing Arts 10th Anniversary Series features 10 shows that highlight topics relevant to South Milwaukee and surrounding communities. Each show speaks to a memory of South Milwaukee's proud past, reflects on a shared experience, or brings hope and optimism for a bright, creative future. Some shows are celebratory and entertaining, while others address important social issues like the changing nature of Main Street or what it means to be "broken," yet inspired. For more information about each show, CLICK HERE.

South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center (MAP)
901 15th Ave.

South Milwaukee, WI 53172

 

100th Anniversary Washington Birthday Banquet

Date: February 16, 2015, 5:30 p.m.
Location: Bay View
Description: The Inter-Organization Council of Bay View, Inc. is hosting its 100th Washington Birthday Banquet! Join Marina as she celebrates this year's festivities, and congratulates the Inter-Organization person of the year, Mr. Jim Wing. The event offers dinner, door prizes and entertainment. Tickets are $22 per person.

Walker's Maple Grove (MAP)
3555 South 13th Street
Milwaukee, WI 53221

 

Brady Street Area Association Firehouse Chili Social

Date: February 17, 2015, 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Location: Milwaukee
Description: Warm up with this annual chili event, and enjoy the company of Brady Street neighbors and  prizes from local businesses.

Milwaukee Fire Department Engine 6  (MAP)
1693 North Franklin Pl. Milwaukee, WI 53202

 

 

 

Dear Wisconsin Neighbor,

 

Last week, the governor introduced his proposed 2015-17 state budget. Although the budget is a complex document, there are already an alarming number of concerns that our Wisconsin friends and neighbors have with many of its provisions.

 

Read on for more about the state budget, further attacks on the supreme court, as well as an update on the Milwaukee Streetcar project.

Sincerely,

Chris Larson
State Senator, District 7

 

 

Governor's Groundhog Day Budget 

 

Last week, the governor announced his budget, which will cover the 2015-2017 biennium. People across Wisconsin tuned in hoping to hear the governor describe his plan for rebuilding Wisconsin, after the harm done by the last two budgets. Unfortunately, there was no long-term, sustainable vision conveyed.

Understanding How Wisconsin Got Here


The 2011-2013 Biennial Budget not only divided Wisconsin and damaged the building blocks of our middle-class, but it also caused Wisconsin to be ranked 42nd in the nation for job growth and is dead last in the Midwest. Below are just some of the staggering cuts that were seen in the previous budget in order to provide $2.3 billion in special interest giveaways:

  • $1.6 billion cut from public schools, which was the largest education cut in Wisconsin history

  • $315 million cut from our UW System, which has campuses across the state to educate future workers

  • $72 million cut from our tech colleges, which are responsible for training the workers our local businesses are demanding

The 2013-2015 state budget continued Walker's pattern of creating budgets that are unsustainable, fail families on education and health care, and don't do anything to represent middle class values. In that budget, the governor expanded the unaccountable, unproven voucher system statewide, while at the same time also choosing to expand the per pupil budget for voucher schools by at least 9% for K-8 students and 22% for high school students. The governor also rejected funding from the federal government to increase health care access to thousands of people, by rejecting the federal Medicaid expansion money. This choice not only costs taxpayers more to cover fewer people, but it also turned away an estimated 10,500 net new jobs.

So how bad is the 2015-2017 budget?


What we heard from Governor Walker last week confirmed what we expected to hear: simply put, this is a Groundhog Day budget -- a repeat of two years ago. Once again, the governor lacks any long-term vision for Wisconsin -- he is ignoring Wisconsin's middle class families and students, in favor of special interest giveaways and unsustainable tax cuts for the wealthy. He is once again dividing our state into winners and losers by gutting $300 million from our UW System, while at the same time increasing spending on big highway and interstate projects, and borrowing an additional $1.5 billion to do it.

Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, he does nothing to address the more than $500 million Values Deficit he created when he made the largest cuts to public education in our state's history just a few years ago. At the same time he continues to allow more private, for-profit voucher schools to operate by expanding the voucher system statewide. To make matters worse, he directly attacks hardworking families, who are already struggling to get by in the Walker economy, by throwing up illegal road blocks for families in need of access to BadgerCare or FoodShare until they can get back on their feet.

Here is a breakdown of a couple of key issue areas of the budget, starting with ten things you may not know about Walker's proposed education budget:
 

  1. It removes the cap on the unaccountable voucher program, allowing for unlimited enrollment statewide

  2. It spends 17.2 million more of our tax dollars  for the voucher program

  3. It cuts per student funding by $126.9 million

  4. It also creates a Charter School Authorizing Board, which will further privatize education and take resources from our traditional neighborhood schools

  5. It cuts almost $90 million in funding for students with special needs

  6. It allows voucher schools to take different tests than public schools to compare performance, creating an apples-to-oranges comparison

  7. It mandates DPI assign schools with letter grades in both school and district report cards

  8. It effectively bans Common Core Standards for WI

  9. It permits people with no background in education, and no proven skills they can adequately teach our kids, to become licensed teachers

  10. It cuts funding for school breakfast, school libraries, SAGE, grants for gifted and talented students, and school violence prevention programs

As mentioned earlier, the governor cuts $300 million from the UW System budget. This will have a huge impact on what was viewed nationally as a world class University System, and will negatively impact the education our kids will receive. Here is a table that outlines the cuts per campus:

 

           


Governor Walker's budget also makes significant changes to policies that that will greatly impact the condition of our shared lands and waters and the way we leave it for future generations.

 

If you care about our public land and water here are ten things you may not have heard about in Walker's budget:

  1. It kills the Wisconsin Knowles-Nelson Stewardship fund, rejecting investment in saving wild areas for public recreation and future generations

  2. It guts citizen guidance of the DNR, by stripping the authority of the citizen-led Natural Resources Board

  3. It cuts over 65 DNR staff positions vital to safeguarding our land and waters

  4. It slashes investments to programs that protect our water, land, and forests

  5. It eliminates public funding for our state park staff

  6. It increases fees for entering and camping in our state parks

  7. It shatters partnerships with groups and organizations who work to preserve and enhance conservation

  8. It cuts DNR forestry staff, in favor of privatization and out-sourcing

  9. It cuts millions from recycling grants, jeopardizing programs and efforts.

  10. It stops the PECFA program, cutting clean-up of contamination sites

                        

 

Finally, If you care about the health of Wisconsin's working families and seniors, this budget makes significant cuts and changes to programs that have been models used around the nation, because of their innovation in helping Wisconsinites and because of the quality of care they produce at a low cost to the individual and state.

 

Here is a list of ten changes in Walker's budget that will hurt Wisconsin�s working families and seniors:

  1. It makes low-income adults, who are already struggling to get by, pay even more for BadgerCare coverage

  2. It limits access to basic health care services to 48 months

  3. It slashes SeniorCare funding by almost $97 million

  4. It pushes seniors out of the SeniorCare program

  5. It eliminates IRIS, a program for people with disabilities

  6. It limits participation in the Wisconsin Works program from 60 months to 48 months

  7. It allows for removal of people from Wisconsin Works without notice or reason

  8. It privatizes the Family Care program and puts the integrity of the program in jeopardy

  9. It makes it easier for the state to take a widow's money through estate taxes

  10. It doesn't accept federal Medicaid money to cover more people under BadgerCare for less money The aforementioned health care cuts could be avoided by expanding BadgerCare, which would save the state around $300 million between January 2016 and June 2017

In this budget, Governor Walker makes it clear that he is more distracted by his own ambitions of appealing to Tea Party voters in other states, than articulating a long-term vision of hope for Wisconsin, which should start by cleaning up the mess he has already made over the past four years.

Instead, Walker's Groundhog Day budget once again doubles down on failed schemes and perpetuates a values deficit by choosing campaigns over classrooms, highways over high schools, and borrowing over Bucky. This budget does not reflect the priorities and values of the people of Wisconsin, period.

As I continue to dig through the budget, I will make sure to update you on other provisions and concerns as they arise. If what we have seen at first glimpse is any indication of things to come, I imagine I will have much more to share with you in the coming weeks and months.
 

Governor Walker's proposed 2015-17 state budget was introduced as Senate Bill 21 (SB) 21 on February 3, 2015, and was referred to the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee (JFC). Since being introduced, there have been strong, bipartisan criticisms expressed over portions of the governor's budget. I will ensure the views of our neighbors are considered as the state budget makes its way to the Wisconsin State Senate for a vote.

 

Additionally, JFC will be holding public hearings as they review the budget, and will make changes over the coming months, before approving a final version to be voted on by the full Legislature, which typically occurs in June. I am strongly advocating for having one of these committee hearings in the Milwaukee area, so the voices and concerns of our neighbors can be heard. I will be sure to keep you updated as details become available.

For up-to-date information on the state budget, connect with me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter.
 

 

Ask Chris

 

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.


Q: Aside from Senate Joint Resolution 2, are there any other attempts to politicize or attack the Wisconsin Supreme Court?


A: Previously, the Larson Report talked about that passage of Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 2, a constitutional amendment that alters the way the State Supreme Court elects its chief justice. Under SJR 2, which passed the Senate along party lines, the chief justice must be selected through an election among the other justices on the court. This controversial measure seems to be a direct attack aimed at removing Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson -- the longest serving member on the court. Republicans have often railed against Justice Abrahamson because they view her as a liberal on a court that has been shifting to be more conservative over the years.

As if the move to remove Shirley Abrahamson from her post wasn't enough, we have recently learned the governor is now proposing to cut the pay of the chief justice as well.

The troubling provisions, with regards to the supreme court, slipped into the budget by the governor are twofold: First, he calls for the repeal of current law, which compensates the chief justice and associate justices differently. Second, he creates a Judicial Compensation Commission, made up of mostly political appointees, which will set the pay of justices moving forward, including salaries for the justices of the supreme court, the court of appeals judges, and the judges of the circuit court.

While the chief justice has no additional authority than the associates, there are numerous responsibilities, spelled out in state law, that are not shared with the other justices. These additional responsibilities include things like: scheduling, budgeting, and working with the director of the court. Most of us probably expect our own compensation to reflect factors such as our workload, responsibilities, and experience -- a notion that the governor seemingly rejects.
 

Once again, rather than focusing on priorities that will increase jobs and support hardworking families in Wisconsin, the governor is doing more to politicize the Wisconsin Supreme Court and attack the current Chief Justice.


This attempt to give the chief justice a pay cut may prove problematic for the governor; however, as some legal experts say it may be in conflict with the Wisconsin Constitution, if enacted. According to a professor at UW-Madison, the Constitution includes a provision that prohibits diminishing the compensation of any public officer during the term of office. Since the current Chief Justice, Shirley Abrahamson, is in the midst of a ten-year term, her salary cannot be singled out for pay reduction prior to the end of her term.

CLICK HERE to read more about this controversial proposal.  


 

Update on Milwaukee Streetcar Proposal
 

This week, the Milwaukee Streetcar received its final vote of approval. As a strong supporter of the Milwaukee Streetcar project, I was happy to see the Milwaukee Common Council vote 9-6 this past Tuesday to approve the project's $124 million capital budget. Thank you to the following for voting in favor of the proposal: Ashanti Hamilton, Nik Kovac, Bob Bauman, Milele Coggs, Willie Wade, Jose Perez, Terry Witkowski, Russell Stamper, and Common Council President Michael Murphy. This project has received strong support from Milwaukee business and community leaders alike and is a positive step towards improving our community's transportation infrastructure and economic prosperity. The 2.5 mile initial footprint of the streetcar connects the lower East Side of Milwaukee to Downtown with a spur that will connect to the proposed 44 story Couture project.

CLICK HERE to view the letters that Milwaukee legislators and I submitted to the Milwaukee Common Council in support of the Milwaukee Streetcar project.

This project is a direct investment of $124 million in the future success of Milwaukee. The immediate benefits of approving this plan will be the creation of over 300 new construction jobs. Many of these jobs will go to family, friends, and neighbors in our community who have been struggling to find work due to the economic downturn.

Furthermore, it is estimated that over the next 20 years the economic development potential within the quarter-mile buffer of the initial route and extensions of the Milwaukee Streetcar could generate approximately:

  • 20,500 new jobs (23% increase)
  • 1,000,000 square feet of new occupied retail space (31% increase)
  • 4,000,000 square feet of new occupied office space (28% increase)
  • $3.35 billion in new tax base
  • 9,000 new housing units (63% increase)
  • 13,500 new residents (55% increase)

Establishing this successful initial streetcar system will allow for practical expansions in the future as funding and market demand dictates. Ideally, the Streetcar will one day include lines connecting UWM, Marquette University, Bronzeville Neighborhood, down to Rockwell Automation, and eventually Mitchell International Airport.

You can find more information about the Milwaukee Streetcar project by CLICKING HERE to visit their website. The site includes route, timeline, ridership, and cost information for the project.

 

Bay View Winter Blast This Weekend

Join me this Sunday, February 15 from Noon to 4 p.m. at the 13th annual Bay View Winter Blast festivities. Formerly known as Bay View's chili cook-off contest, this winter event is featuring its first-ever Pizza Tasting Contest. A tasting plate is just $5 and entitles its "taster" to a slice of pizza from each contest entrant. The contest will kick off at 1 p.m. and each taster will receive three tickets to cast their ballots for Best Pizza, Best Sauce, and Best Crust. Additionally, several neighborhood and community organizations will be present to connect with neighbors.

Some of the other festivities include: an appearance by the Milwaukee Fire Department�s mascot, Sparky, and the Milwaukee Police Department�s mascot, McGruff. This event will also boast live music by the Get Hot, and local sponsors include First Federal Bank, Goodwill Workforce Connection Center, Mac's PET DEPOT Barkery, 91.7 WMSE, Pick'n Save, County Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic, and Bay View Maytag Laundromat. Time and location information is provided below.

Bay View Winter Blast
Sunday, February 15 from Noon to 4 p.m.
South Shore Park Pavilion (MAP)
2900 South Shore Drive
Milwaukee, WI 53207
 

 

Valentine's Day
Saturday, February 14 is Valentine's Day. This special day typically serves as a time to celebrate and show your loved ones how much they mean to you. Approximately 150 million Valentine's Day cards are exchanged annually, making Valentine's Day the second most popular card-sending holiday after Christmas.

This year, Valentine's Day is particularly significant for our LGBT neighbors, as it will be the first one in Wisconsin since the affirmation of freedom to marry for all couples.

Click here for a list of Valentine's Day events in the Milwaukee area.

 

Milwaukee Buck's Player to Compete in Slam Dunk Contest

Giannis Antetokounmpo, a forward for the Milwaukee Bucks, will participate in the NBA's Sprite Slam Dunk Contest on February 14.

Antetokounmpo, known as the "Greek Freak," is just 20 years old, but has led the Bucks' resurgence as a playoff contender. The Bucks are at their best winning percentage in five years.  

Antetokounmpo will attempt to be the first Bucks player to ever win the Slam Dunk Contest. Only two others have ever competed, the last being Ray Allen, in 1997.

 

Hunger Next Door

Hunger Next Door is an exhibit by the Hunger Task Force that made its public debut at Gallery Night in Milwaukee's Third Ward. The project illustrates the reality of hunger in our community. Five families were given digital cameras to capture their story through photos. These families generously shared their privacy with the hope of changing how we view, understand, and work to solve hunger.

Mu Tah, Paw Kler, and their family are residents in the 7th Senate District who recently immigrated from Burma. They have struggled to balance a new language and culture with putting food on the table. Mu Tah's photos are part of this eye-opening exhibit, which will be on display at the Wisconsin State Capitol from February 4 - 16, 2015.

Click here to view the Hunger Next Door photos.
 
 

 

 

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