State Budget Highlights, Vetoes
6/27/11 – Governor Scott Walker’s office announced 50 vetoes Sunday to the new two-year state budget that takes effect on Friday. The Republican Walker signed the 66-billion-dollar package in Green Bay Sunday afternoon. It cuts around a billion-dollars in state aid to public schools and local governments, in an effort to eliminate budget deficits both now and in the coming years. It leaves the state government in the best financial shape in at least 15 years — but it reduces or gets rid of health and social programs which critics said would hurt the poor and the middle class. Walker also included a series of business tax breaks aimed at improving the economy and keeping his promise to create a quarter-million new Wisconsin jobs by 2015.
Walker used his partial veto power to eliminate 50 items. That’s a relatively small number, made possible by the fact that Republicans control the governor’s office and both houses of the Legislature. Democrats had that same power two years ago, when former Governor Jim Doyle modified or cut 81 budget items.
In a statement, Walker called the budget “a return to the bedroom principles of our state’s Constitution — frugality and moderation.” The governor said the budget avoids accounting tricks, fund-raids, and one-time funding maneuvers used by governors and lawmakers of both parties in recent decades.
Walker re-wrote language in the budget bill to exempt emergency medical service providers from the new limits on collective bargaining. Police and firefighters previously had the only exemptions. The governor still gave U-W Madison more autonomy — despite the Joint Finance Committee’s idea to scrap the separation of Madison from the rest of the university system. The Board of Regents will no longer review the flagship campus’s compensation, tentative labor deals, and personnel plans. Walker said it would the university the autonomy to compete with other schools, and the Legislature would still have a hand in the matter through its Employment Relations panel.
Walker’s vetoes also end the requirement that child care providers be finger-printed. It lets non-profit groups host transitional job placement sessions for both non-profit and for-profit operations. The governor eliminated a proposed increase in the minimum valuation factor for property taxes, saying it needs to reflect future conditions that we don’t know about now.
As expected, the governor vetoed the requirement that people go to Madison to see the ethics statements of public officials. He eliminated a 10-thousand-dollar contribution for a proposed new space station off Lake Michigan in Sheboygan. And he vetoed four items his office announced the past couple days — the return of bail bondsmen, pay for fired Milwaukee police officers who appeal their dismissals, a tax break for smokeless tobacco, and making a Presbyterian student center in Madison pay property taxes.
Finally, here are a few of the items Walker decided to keep in the budget, despite requests to drop them — a ban on breweries owning beer distributors, which made small beer-makers upset — making it easier for credti unions to become full-fledged banks — and funding cuts to the Focus on Energy program which provides incentives to use energy-efficient products.
Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca says, “The theme of Gov. Walker’s budget is that the middle class pays more and gets less. His vetoes don’t change the fact that his budget serves corporate special interests at the expense of Wisconsin’s small businesses and middle class.” The Legislature has the power to override Walker’s budget vetoes, but don’t count on it. The last time it happened was 1985.
Relay Chair Thanks Community For Successful Event
6/27/11 – The Event Chair for this weekend’s Relay for Life of Beaver Dam is thanking the entire Dodge County community for making this weekend’s two-day fundraiser a success. Kristin Fabisch says participants came from in and around Beaver Dam with hopes of creating a world with less cancer and more birthdays. The total gross was $128,154, more than three thousand dollars above their goal. Fabisch says she and her co-chair Melissa DeVries are “totally excited” about next year and have already got some great ideas. Donations for this year’s Relay can be made to an individual, a team or the national organization through the end of July. A link to the American Cancer Society Relay for Life web page can be found on website, wbevradio.com.
Grulke Alleges Open Meetings Violation
6/27/11 – Dan Grulke has filed another lawsuit against the Beaver Dam School Board and Superintendent Steve Vessey, this time for allegedly violating the state’s open meetings law. Grulke claims the school board violated the law by discussing tentative contract agreements with unions during the closed session portion of a meeting held on June 6. The districts attorney says the board did discuss the proposals and offer direction to the negotiating team, but says there was no vote on the agreements in closed session. Grulke also says the district’s meeting minutes from that night say the board held their annual budget hearing in closed session. The school district is calling that a clerical error that will be corrected when the board meets next month.
Local School Districts Getting Special Education Aid
6/27/11 – Several area school districts will be receiving state and federal aid to help defray the costs of educating students with severe or multiple disabilities. Nearly 130 school districts will be splitting nearly $5.5 million for special education services provided to around 1000 students during the 2009-2010 school years. Claim requests for that school year were $10.5 million and aid payments were prorated to 53% of their costs. The state portion of the aid payments is nearly $3.5 million and the upcoming two-year budget approved by the legislature keeps that current amount in place. The Columbus School District will be receiving an $8600 payment for the special education services they provided. The Cambria-Friesland School District is getting $1800 while Lomira is getting close to $9000. The Hartford School District is getting $47,000 while Jefferson is getting $16,000. The Markesan School District is slated to receive $33,000. The Oconomowoc Area School District is tabbed to get $28,000 while Oakfield can expect $3800. Pardeeville is in line to receive $7000 while Poynette will get $2900.
Quad Graphics Seeks $1.5 Billion To Refinance
6/27/11 – Quad Graphics plans to ask for a billion-and-a-half dollar loan to refinance its debt during a meeting with J-P Morgan Chase in New York Tuesday. Quad reportedly wants an 800-million-dollar revolving line of credit and a 400-million-dollar loan that are both due in five years – and a 300-million-dollar loan due in seven years. Quad-Graphics is based in Sussex and is one of Dodge County’s largest employers. Quad became a publicly-held company after its recent merger with Canada’s World Color Press and it plans on consolidating facilities and moving more work into Wisconsin in coming years. Bloomberg News reported last year that Quad received a 700-million-dollar loan that’s due in 2016, and 530-million in revolving credit.
Radiothon A Success
6/27/11 – The WBEV/WXRO Children’s Radiothon pulled in around $112,000 this year. Good Karma Broadcasting President and CEO Craig Karmazin announced the preliminary totals Friday morning, as the 27-hour marathon broadcast wrapped up. In addition to an on-air auction, the event featured the third annual Noel’s Angel Walk which brought in close to $15,000. Each of the seven agencies benefitting from the Radiothon had a different region of the county to raise money in as part of the DCS Cup Tour and Green Valley Enterprises collected the most to take the cup from three-time winner Clothes for Kids. Our announcers pulled in nearly $10,000 on the roof of the radio station with a fishing pole and bucket. Over fourteen years, the Children’s Radiothon has raised over $1.1-million dollars.
Bumper Crop of Tart Cherry Predicted
6/27/11 – If estimates prove true, Wisconsin tart cherry crop will be 53 percent bigger than last year’s. The state is projecting a crop of 8-point-7 million pounds. The positive outlook is credited to the fact most cherry trees here came through the winter without being damaged. Wisconsin ranks fourth in the nation in production of tart cherries. Michigan is number-one, producing 80 percent of the country’s crop.