December 20, 2012
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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.
The Sound of Music
Come enjoy The Sound of Music this holiday season in Milwaukee. This
timeless classic makes for a perfect evening for the entire family. When
Maria, a nun-in-training, proves to be too high-spirited for religious
life, she is sent to serve as governess for the seven children of a
widowed naval captain. Her amazing rapport with the children combined
with her generosity and kindness gradually captures the heart of the
austere Captain von Trapp. Shortly after marrying, the whole family is
forced to flee invading Nazis by escaping over the mountains of
Switzerland. The family’s narrow escape on the eve of World War II is
one of the most thrilling and inspirational finales ever presented in
CLICK HERE or call (414) 291-7811 for more information or to
Family Free Day at
Miller Lite Free
Milwaukee and Waukesha areas
This week we remember those we lost to gun violence in Connecticut. We also take a look at the challenges facing our state as we approach the New Year and a new legislative session.
Mourning Those We Lost
Our country is currently in a state of mourning for the 20 children and 7 adults that were killed in Newtown, Connecticut late last week by a lone gunman. As a father, I cannot help but see my son's eyes when I look into the faces of those we lost so young.
The sheer magnitude of what was lost that day was summed up well by President Obama when he said:
As stories have been coming out, it has become evident that many of the teachers and staff that gave up their lives on that tragic day did so out of love to protect their students. I am humbled by these brave and selfless individuals who sacrificed everything and acted heroically to try and save the innocent children they often referred to as "their kids."
As a community that experienced the
devastation of violence first-hand earlier this year, at both the Sikh
Temple in Oak Creek and Azana Salon & Spa in Brookfield, we know it
takes time to grieve and start to move forward. My thoughts and prayers
go out to the family, friends, and neighbors of those wounded, killed,
or present in the shooting during this difficult time. In the days to
come, we must step beyond partisan roadblocks to seek real solutions to
prevent such tragic and senseless acts of violence.
|Challenges to Tackle in New Year|
Last session was a historic one in Wisconsin. As we approach the New Year, it is time to examine the challenges facing our state as we get closer to the start of the new legislative session.
JOBS & ECONOMY
Just last week, Governor Walker made a misleading and false claim saying that Wisconsin was close to creating 100,000 jobs since he took office. While many of us wish that this figure accurately portrayed our current economic situation, economists at the Department of Revenue and even the governor's own spokesperson have since said that the data the governor cited when making this announcement was used improperly and misrepresents the truth.
It was determined that this jobs
figure was made based off of data from the Quarterly Census Employment
and Wages (QCEW) published by the Department of Workforce Development to
calculate the number of jobs created from December 2010 to June 2012
(the most recent quarter available). This misleading data touted by
Governor Walker was not seasonally adjusted. Comparing seasonally
adjusted numbers to non-seasonally adjusted numbers is like comparing
February temperatures to those in July. Therefore, picking and choosing
the numbers the way Governor Walker is does not accurately reflect the number
of jobs Wisconsin gained since December 2010.
To most accurately calculate jobs numbers, states are encouraged to use the seasonally adjusted census data released by the U.S. Department of Workforce Development. Analysis of this data shows that Wisconsin has only created about 25,411 private sector jobs since Governor Walker took office. With only two years left on the governor's first-term, it is unlikely that he will come anywhere close to achieving his biggest campaign promise of creating 250,000 jobs.
It also appears that if Wisconsin does
not change its course, we may continue to see much of the same stunted
job growth and insufficient economic development. Last week, Forbes
Magazine released their Best States for Business ranking, which showed
that Wisconsin has fallen from 40th to 42nd. It notes our state has an
expected job growth rate of -0.3% for 2012. Additionally, the profile for
Wisconsin notes “The Badger State adopted the slogan 'Open for Business' in 2011,
erecting signs along the state border. The results have been middling at
best as job growth is projected to be second worst in the U.S. through
2016." Unfortunately for our state, just putting up signs does not make
Wisconsin open for business. Clearly changes need to be made to alter
Wisconsin's workers are struggling to find jobs, our children are also
experiencing the challenges our state must strive to overcome. The
2011-2012 budget cut over $800 million from K-12 education--the largest
cut to education in Wisconsin’s history. Since then, teachers and
students have been struggling with class sizes exceeding 40 students,
which I saw first-hand after visiting multiple schools in each of our
five area school districts.
If Wisconsin is going to be a pro-business state, it must also be pro-education. We cannot afford to follow failed policies of the past when we have common sense solutions in front of us. Therefore, I urge the governor and members of the Legislature to support Superintendent Evers’ Agenda 2017 and Fair Funding for Our Future plans. I am optimistic we can work together to provide our children with a brighter future.
ACCOUNTABILITY & TRANSPARENCY
Another challenge Wisconsin has had to
grasp is how to stretch what little money we have during these
tough economic times. One of the best ways to ensure our tax dollars are
being used wisely and as intended by the people of Wisconsin is to
increase accountability and transparency measures so we can all track
where the money is going to determine if the investments we are making
are sound. In general, Wisconsinites agree that accountability and
transparency are crucial to a well-functioning government that places
the people first. This is illustrated by our laws requiring open
meetings and records, thoughtful checks and balances in government
structures, and significant disclosure for campaign contributions.
This public-private agency has had
persistent problems since its inception. These include circumventing
Wisconsin’s fair and competitive bidding process and ignoring federal
and state laws when giving out grants. The final straw, which led to an
independent audit being conducted, was losing track of $50 million in
loans, including about $12 million already overdue. According to the
audit, WEDC also failed to double-check credit card purchases and
accounting journals of staff. Such a basic business practice is
necessary to prevent internal fraud, including embezzlement.
Additionally, the agency did not track the tens of millions in taxpayer
dollars it gave to businesses. This shoddy accounting contributed to
WEDC failing to follow-up on delinquent loans.
WEDC’s culture of secrecy has left
taxpayers in the dark on their investment in this agency. We cannot
afford to continue footing the bill to cover the mistakes made by WEDC.
With Wisconsin still struggling economically, failing to create promised
jobs, and lagging behind the rest of the country, it is unacceptable to
allow WEDC to continue to play fast and loose with our tax dollars.
Health care is a major economic issue
as it affects all Wisconsinites and businesses statewide. A healthy
workforce means less sick days, catching health issues before they
become chronic conditions, and increased productivity. Our state still
has many challenges to overcome regarding health care in Wisconsin,
including recent attacks on women's health priorities and opting to punt
implementation of health care exchanges to the federal government. As we
approach the upcoming legislative session, economic issues, including
health care, must be a top priority.
Other states, including Texas, passed similar regressive laws regarding women's health recently and have come to realize that such pursuits may end up costing taxpayers dearly. Texas estimates that their decision to cut $73 million from family planning and women's health centers could cost taxpayers an additional $273 million during the 2014-2015 biennium due to an anticipated additional 23,760 babies being born in poverty because of decreased access to birth control. This consequence of eliminating funding for women's health and family planning centers has already caused Texas legislators on both sides of the aisle to rethink their hastily crafted law.
To move forward together, we need to stand on the side of best practices that promote healthy communities, save taxpayer money, and give all Wisconsinites an opportunity to receive basic health care services. In fact, for every public $1 spent on preventive family planning services taxpayers save, on average, $4. Like Texas, Wisconsin should also stop to think of the unintended consequences of eliminating state funding to family planning and women's health centers.
report titled Transportation and the New Generation released by
the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group (WISPIRG) earlier this year
reveals that for the first time since World War II, Americans are
driving less. As a result, our state now faces the challenge of
supporting growing public transit use despite massive cuts
to public transit funding.
Wisconsin also faces challenges when trying to balance environmental protections with economic development. Sensitive natural areas are crucial to Wisconsin’s economy, culture, and public health, and we must continue to safeguard these resources. Despite Wisconsin’s long tradition of protecting the environment, our pressing need for jobs and economic growth emboldened some legislators to push proposals that ignored Wisconsin’s belief that our quality environment is not just important to outdoor enthusiasts, but also vital to our economy. One way this was shown was through the three competing mining proposals introduced last session.
Below is a list of just some of the environmental concerns contained in Assembly Bill 426, which is expected to be reintroduced this year:
Mining is part of Wisconsin’s past and
present, and we have an exciting opportunity to responsibly grow this
industry for the future. Unfortunately, last session legislative leaders
only allowed debate on the proposal that was most costly to taxpayers
and least protective of the environment. I supported an alternative
proposal that would have updated our laws to be similar to those in
active mining states, like Minnesota and Michigan. Neither bill passed
before the Legislature’s session ended in March 2012. I look forward to
once again working with legislators on both sides of the aisle when
session resumes to see if we can pass responsible mining reforms that
protect Wisconsin's tradition of stewardship.
TAXES & SPENDING
Early projections indicate that massive cuts to things we value, such as education, public transit, and safety net programs for neighbors have left us with an extra $340 million in revenue. However, cutting billions from crucial state programs and services so we can have spare change left over at the end of the budget cycle is not the Wisconsin way. These unnecessary cuts have a significant impact on our family, friends, neighbors, and communities, some of which are irreparable. We cannot say we have a surplus when we have a values deficit.
During the upcoming session, my
colleagues and I will be fighting to ensure the middle class are not
forced to again bear the brunt of these cuts, especially when others are
not paying their fair share. We will also work to pass proposals that
represent Wisconsin's shared values to move our state forward for all.
While such efforts will most definitely be challenging, they are also
necessary to get Wisconsin headed in the right direction.
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: I read an article in the paper that said Milwaukee teachers are leaving because of the city's residency requirement. Is this true?
A: There continues to be flaws in the way reporters recently chose to address this issue, as facts went unchecked, experts were not interviewed, and one side of the issue ignored. In reality, there are a number of significant factors that have caused quality teachers to leave Milwaukee.
One of the main reasons our schools have been forced to endure class sizes of 40 students and are unable to hire the teachers we need is because Wisconsin's schools saw the biggest budget cut in state history. As a result, districts let go of nearly 2,400 staff last year and about 75% of districts cut teachers. Many of these teachers left not out of choice, but out of necessity because districts could no longer afford to pay them given the drastic decrease in state aid they received.
Another reason teachers, especially younger ones, are leaving is because of state changes that have restricted career growth. These concerns were recently cited by staff in the Nicolet School District through a survey commissioned by the School Board. Because of these changes, new teachers often feel as though they are stuck at the bottom of the pay scale with little to no chance of being able to move up. As a result, many of these young professionals have sought work in different fields or left Wisconsin altogether to teach in other states that offer better opportunities, allow for advancement, and provide family-supporting jobs.
Finally, as State Superintendent Tony Evers brought to our attention in his state of education address, the contentions surrounding Act 10 and the 2011-2012 Biennial Budget have unjustly placed targets on the backs of our teachers. He shared plenty of stories detailing how the lives of teachers have been negatively impacted by disparaging rhetoric. One teacher, for example, drives to a grocery store two towns away to ensure she can shop in peace. Another teacher broke down in tears when asked what advice she would give to aspiring educators. While a different teacher admitted no longer telling people her profession out of fear of where the conversation would go. Every Monday through Friday, from September through June, we entrust Wisconsin's teachers with those most valuable to us--our children. Should we expect them to stick around if we fail to give them the respect they deserve?
Did You Know...?
You may be aware that the Wisconsin State Capitol erects a holiday tree in the ground floor rotunda annually. But did you know that this tradition has been going on since 1916?
This year's tree is a 35-foot balsam fir that was donated from the Meyer Castle Tree Farm in Medford, Wisconsin. It is decorated in hundreds of handmade ornaments by Wisconsin's school children following the theme of "Goods and Products Made in Wisconsin."
The tree also boasts over 2,000 energy-saving LED lights and a train set that runs around the trunk.
Preparing for the Upcoming Budget
Wisconsin has a two-year budget cycle,
which typically runs from July of an odd-numbered year through June of
the next odd-numbered year. For example, Wisconsin’s next budget, the
2013-2015 Biennial Budget, is expected to take effect on July 1, 2013,
and end on June 30, 2015.
I always appreciate hearing from neighbors about issues that are
important to them, including those that come up during the biennial
budget process and the upcoming legislative session. Here are some ways
to remain informed and stay in touch on state and community issues:
Committee Calendars--Tracks all upcoming committee meetings and public hearings.
Click here to view a copy of the calendar.
Click here to watch videos made available by WisconsinEye.
Watch the Senate's Inauguration Ceremony
The Senate will be holding its inauguration ceremony on at 2 p.m. Monday, January 7. During this time, session will be called to order and 17 members of the Senate will be introduced, have their election certified, and sign the Oath of Office. Some of these senators will be sworn in for the first time, while others will be marking their re-election to office. This day will also kick-off the 2013-2014 Legislative Session.
The holidays are finally here and
holiday cheer is all around us. With the decorative lights, festive
carolers, and community celebrations, it is hard not to get into the
holiday spirit. I encourage you to enjoy the holiday season by spending
time with family and friends. As we prepare for the New Year, we should
take a moment to reflect on 2012 and make plans to have a better,
healthier, happier year in 2013.
A Christmas Carol
The ultimate holiday tradition returns again for its 37th year. Dickens’ classic masterpiece will delight and brighten your holiday season with beautiful carols and a timeless message of hope, peace, love, and the true meaning of the holiday season. Bring the whole family and join in a tradition that has been delighting audiences for generations.
The Pabst Theater (MAP)
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Milwaukee Holiday Lights Festival
Now through Monday, December 31
This six-week festival will spread holiday spirit with animated light displays in Cathedral Square Park, Pere Marquette Park, and Zeidler Union Square, as well as decorated streetscapes and hundreds of events. Marvel at the spectacular sights aboard the convenient Jingle Bus, a Coach USA bus that takes visitors on a 40-minute tour. For $1 per person, visitors can relish in the holiday spirit while admiring a festive panorama. The tour is narrated by Milwaukee Downtown’s Public Service Ambassadors who will acquaint riders with key attractions and landmarks.
A Kodachrome Christmas
Giving Back This Holiday Season
The holiday season also provides many
opportunities to give back to our community. This winter, try
volunteering in one of our local food pantries. Hunger Task Force Inc.
and Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin, both based out of the Milwaukee
area, provide excellent volunteering opportunities. More information can
be found on their Web sites:
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