Larson Report 
NEWSLETTER

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 A Capitol Update from State Senator Chris Larson

Dear Wisconsin Neighbor,

There's an old (bad) joke that goes, "in Wisconsin, we only have two seasons: winter and construction." So even though the warmth hasn't fully arrived, it seems we're already in the midst of a lot of road construction. Some of it is very badly needed. If it's on a state road, chances are it's been waiting way too long already.

With this backdrop, the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) took up Transportation last week. Instead of a responsible, long-term solution, there will continue to be delays before Wisconsin gets the funding it needs. JFC also took up the Department of Health Services and, despite public support to the contrary, they started Wisconsin down the path of rejecting the funds for Medicaid expansion.

This, combined with their recent proposed cuts to education and other simple solutions, has put me solidly in the "no" column until sanity can be restored to a final budget.     

 

In Service, 

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Last Week Republicans Officially Voted Not to Expand Medicaid 
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Last week the Republicans on JFC officially voted not to join 37 other states ahead of us and accept the federal funding to expand Medicaid in Wisconsin. This means we will continue to lose hundreds of millions of dollars and refuse to extend coverage to more than 82,000 of our neighbors.

Republicans slashed DHS programs by $187.5 million less than Governor Evers’ budget request, not counting Medicaid expansion. The total climbs to about $900 million less once you include the denial of the Medicaid expansion.

The Republican proposal represents tens of millions less in investing in Hospital Access Payments, Community Health Benefits, Crisis Intervention, Dental Access Incentives, and Lead Exposure Prevention.

Democrats have supported taking the federal Medicaid expansion allowed under the Affordable Care Act since 2014, the first year we were eligible to do so. It is truly a shame that Republicans are continuing to ignore the 70% of Wisconsinites that support this policy and all of us who would benefit.

Just as a reminder, below is what Milwaukee County stands to lose by this decision.   

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Expanding Medicaid would have an overwhelmingly positive effect on all counties in Wisconsin. To find out how your community would benefit click HERE and find your county on the map.

Republican JFC Members Also Left Our Roads Woefully Underfunded
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With the support of legislative Democrats, Governor Evers' created a transportation budget that would put Wisconsin on a sustainable path for future road projects. When Republicans scrapped the budget plans they turned their backs on sound fiscal policy and ensured only Wisconsin drivers are on the hook for the tab.

How? Instead of moderately raising the gas tax by ten cents and raising fees on heavy truck use (which would capture funds from out of state drivers using and abusing our roads), Republicans will raise the vehicle registration tax by $10 to $25 and raise auto title fees by 137%.

These measures not only won’t raise the funds that increasing the gas tax by ten cents would, but they also overwhelmingly let folks from Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, and Iowa off the hook when they use our roads. This is a half measure plan that is dangerously short-sighted and will do nothing to ensure proper road maintenance and safety in the long term.

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Instead, Republicans are kicking the can down the road by providing only 25% of what the governor proposed. The economic impact of further delaying sustainable transportation funding would continue Wisconsin down a dangerous road. Currently: 

• 22 cents of every dollar Wisconsin spends on transportation goes toward debt rather than road repairs

• At the current rate, each mile of county road construction performed today won’t be reconstructed for another 196 years

1,393,428 full-time jobs in Wisconsin in key industries like tourism, retail sales, agriculture, and manufacturing are completely dependent on the state’s transportation infrastructure network. These workers earn $54.8 billion in wages and contribute an estimated $10.0 billion in state and local income, corporate and unemployment insurance taxes and the federal payroll tax.

• Delays hit the pocketbooks of Wisconsinites as well, according to the Wisconsin Transportation Development Association the average Wisconsin driver spends an extra $637 a year on car repairs as a result of damage caused by poor road conditions.

It is time for Republicans to come to the table and work with legislators across the aisle to find better transportation solutions when the budget comes up in the Senate for a vote.

Republicans Strip Charging Station Funding

In 2016 and 2017 Wisconsin was part of a multistate settlement with the car manufacturer Volkswagen after they used software to circumvent emissions standards. As part of that settlement, Wisconsin is going to receive $25 million over the next two years.

Under the Democratic plan, $15 million would have gone to replacing public buses and $10 million to install electric vehicle charging stations across the state. This investment would signal that Wisconsin is serious about a clean vehicle future and smart public transportation. 

However, JFC Republicans stripped the charging station funding and are instead proposing $22 million for state vehicles and public buses.

WEDC Accountability Rejected by JFC Republicans

Democratic members of the Joint Finance Committee again tried to inject some accountability to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), a public-private hybrid agency that is unelected and unaccountable directly to the taxpayer. WEDC has a scandal-plagued history of losing money and fiscal mismanagement. A recent audit of WEDC showed that they awarded money to companies that created jobs out of state. 

The same audit found that WEDC didn't recover more than $400,000 in tax credits and more than $4 million in loans that it could have when employers didn't meet the terms of their taxpayer-funded deals.

That is why Democrats on the committee introduced a motion to require WEDC to produce an annual report on grant recipients who failed to meet contractually required results. Shockingly, Republicans rejected their motion.

 

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Last Friday was National Gun Violence Awareness Day. Other advocates and I wore orange in memory of lives lost to gun violence.

Every day, an average of 100 people are killed by guns in America. Guns are the second leading cause of death among children and teens. This tragedy is entirely preventable if lawmakers in Wisconsin and in Washington stepped up to pass sensible gun safety laws.

Other advanced countries don't have the catastrophic mass shootings, gun homicides, and gun suicides we do. They have leaders willing to do what it takes to protect their citizens. We don't.

In the meantime, I am proud to be working with my colleagues to introduce the laws needed to address this crisis. Specifically, I am a co-sponsor on legislation that would reinstate Wisconsin's 48 hour waiting period for handgun purchases and another that would prevent anyone who is convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors from possessing a firearm.

You can take action today. Call the legislative hotline at 1-800-362-9472 and ask for your state representatives, tell them you want responsible gun laws in Wisconsin. 

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The Larson Report strives to provide up-to-date, in-depth information to you. Between editions, a lot happens in Madison and around the country. I want to make sure you know the most pressing issues facing our neighbors and friends across the nation. Below are some of the top stories from the past couple of weeks. 

Democrats Move to Ensure Reproductive Healthcare is Protected 

 

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Last week, I cosponsored legislation that would repeal Wisconsin’s 1849 criminal abortion law. Doctors should never have to fear a jail sentence for doing their job in the state of Wisconsin.

If Roe V Wade is overturned, and this law still exists on our books, then Wisconsin individuals and families will no longer be able to make their own medical decisions regarding reproductive healthcare and there would be no exemptions for rape or incest.

Roe didn’t mark the start of abortion in America, it ended unsafe abortion in America. We know what happens when people do not have access to safe, legal abortions. We have endured that history, and it leads to terrible outcomes for families.

We know the GOP's goal is to chip away at the autonomy of a person to make their own healthcare decisions, put lawmakers between people and their doctors, and ultimately overturn Roe V Wade. Their disastrous policies would take Wisconsin back to the dark ages of reproductive healthcare.

Everyone should have the ability to make the deeply personal decision of when and how to begin a family, and the opportunity to live safe, healthy lives with the freedom to define their own path. Lawmakers should not have any say in the personal medical decisions of the individual, and there should be no politics when it comes to a person’s ability to decide when to begin a family according to their personal beliefs.  

 

 

December 25, 2018 11 a.m. - 2_30 p.m. Doors open at 10_30 a.m. Wisconsin Center 400 W Wisconsin Ave Milwaukee, WI 53203 Hosted by The Salvation Army,-4.jpg
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