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Driving the wealthy out

Taxes


Some states, including Wisconsin during 2009, balanced their budgets on the backs of wealthy residents with higher income taxes. Arden Dale writes in the Wall Street Journal 
that the trend may continue during 2010.

One of the ramifications of this tax increase is that wealthy residents will pack up and move, taking their investments, job creation capabilities, and charitable donations with them.

Jacking up taxes for the wealthy may sound appealing, even fair to some. However, as Edwin Feulner, the president of the Heritage Foundation emphasizes, almost half of Americans don’t pay income taxes. It makes sense that at the same time, about half of Americans feel the amount they pay in federal income taxes is about right. As Feulner writes in a  recent column, “If you’re paying nothing, that probably does seem like a good deal. Even if it isn’t either fair or sustainable.”

The percentage of taxpayers is declining while spending continues to increase sharply.  Feulner writes, “When government gives people cash and programs that cost more than they pay in taxes, most of them will favor ever bigger spending and more government. Who doesn’t love a ‘free lunch’? And, having had one today, who wouldn’t want one tomorrow, next month -- indeed, every day?”

At some point, Feulner concludes the wealthy that are already paying their fair share and then some, will decide that enough’s enough.

Read Feulner’s column here.

2009 "Keeping The Wreath Green"

The 2009 "Keep The Wreath Green" campaign has come to an end.  The final count was 47 Green and 3 Red Lighs.  These numbers are lower than last years totals (44 Green & 6 Red.)  Although it is less, remember our ultimate goal is to "Keep The Wreath Green" and promote fire safety throughout the holiday season.

In 2010 we will attempt to have NO red lights on the wreath, we can do this by continuing to practice fire safety.

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Congratulations to area high school football players!

Good news from Senate District 28


Here are players from schools located in state Senate District 28 that I represent who were named to the 2009 NOW All-Suburban Football Team.

Congratulations to all for an outstanding season and high school football career!

OFFENSIVE HONOR ROLL

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Bad economy affects property tax bills

Taxes


Wisconsin
’s system of collecting income and sales taxes to send back to local governments and school districts to provide property tax relief has been in existence for close to 100 years. When the economy is good, the system works well. When the economy is poor, like the current recession, municipalities and taxpayers are affected, and this December will be a perfect example.

The Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX) examined the state property tax relief system and found that during fiscal year 2007, of all state-local revenue collected, 60.5 percent was collected at the state level and only 39.5 percent was collected at the local level. Meanwhile, state spending comprised only 41.8 percent of all state-local expenditures. Local governments spent 58.2 percent.

As WISTAX writes, “Put another way, state government accounted for 60.5% of all revenue collected here but only 41.8% of all spending. Conversely, local governments raised only 39.5% of total revenue but did 58.2% of all government spending. Either way (60.5 - 41.8 = 18.7 or 39.5 - 58.2 = -18.7), there was an 18.7 point gap between where monies were raised and spent.”


Here is a statistic you may not know. According to WISTAX, Wisconsin’s percentage of state aid to local governments, 32.2 percent, is the eighth highest in the nation. During fiscal year 2007, Wisconsin spent about $1,776 per capita on local aid, more than any other category of spending.

The state spent $1,714 per capita on K-12 education, $1,311 per capita on public welfare, $866 per capita on higher education, and $76 per capita on highways during fiscal year 2007.

The nature of our century-old system is that if the economy is struggling as it is currently, state government is almost forced to cut local aid. What does that mean for taxpayers? There most certainly will be an impact on December property tax bills.

WISTAX correctly concludes that during an economic downturn as incoming revenues to the state decline, the grim climate pits state against municipalities. State officials point to the drop in revenue while local officials claim tied hands because aid is inadequate.

The horrible exclamation point on this analysis is emphasized by WISTAX as it writes, “The irony is that, despite the state’s considerable commitment to ‘buying down’ property taxes with state aid, Wisconsin’s property tax burden relative to income remains ninth highest in the U.S.

The nonpartisan Tax Foundation in Washington D.C. reports that during fiscal year 2006, the latest year the Census Bureau published state-by-state property tax collections, Wisconsin’s combined state/local property taxes of $1,443.98 per capita ranked #11 nationally.

Congratulations, Section Elementary School in Mukwonago!

Good news from Senate District 28


Section Elementary School in the Mukwonago Area School District that is located in state Senate District 28 is one of eight Wisconsin schools nominated by State Superintendent Tony Evers for national recognition as a Blue Ribbon School.

Congratulations, Section Elementary and good luck!

UPDATE: Pro-choice, but not about light bulbs

Legislation, News you can use


Over a year ago, I wrote the following blog, “Pro-choice, but not about light bulbs”:

"There is great concern about the safety of fluorescent light bulbs given that the United States is phasing out the use of traditional, incandescent light bulbs and mandating the use of fluorescent bulbs. Most Americans fail to realize their choice of light bulbs has already been made in Washington.

Part of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 approved and signed into law last year calls for a phasing out of traditional light bulbs beginning in 2012 leading to an all-out ban in 2014 in favor of energy-saving compact fluorescent bulbs or CFL’s. CFL’s contain dangerous mercury. When the bulbs are broken, the mercury escapes into surroundings and must be handled with extreme caution.

Blogger John Lott and others wrote about the story of a Maine woman and her terrible experience with a broken CFL. A Maine Department of Environmental Protection employee came out to her home to check for damage and then suggested to the woman that she call in a firm that turned out to be a clean-up process costing over $2,000.  

Since this well-publicized account, other stories have reported that it is unnecessary for an environmental clean-up firm to respond to a broken CFL. Even so, pray you never break one in your home. The measures to take suggested by the state of Maine, the site of the above-mentioned story, pose one hassle after another.

During March 2008, two dozen members of the House, including Wisconsin Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner introduced the Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act. The act repeals the portions of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 that mandate the use of CFL’s unless the comptroller general can offer a report that finds specific financial benefits of using the bulbs, environmental benefits achieved by their use, and evidence that addresses concerns of mercury threats from CFL’s.

On March 14, 2008, the Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act was referred to the House Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality. Seven months later, the committee, controlled by Democrats, including committee member Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), has yet to schedule a hearing.

I find it amazing pro-choice Democrats refuse to let Americans decide what kind of light bulbs they want in their own homes."

Former Oklahoma Congressman Ernest Istook finds fault with the new bulbs. Istook writes:

"I paid about $5 for a new bulb advertised to save me money by lasting seven years. It burned out in three weeks…. It used to be easy to buy a light bulb -- grab and go. Now I join shoppers hunched over in the light-bulb aisle, trying to decipher the fine print of the new-fangled bulbs."

Istook emphasizes the new bulbs have sent jobs overseas, and some supporters now have doubts. Istook writes:

“Even some proponents are expressing doubts about what they’ve imposed on us. Buried within a New York Times (article) in January, I found the confessions of a self-described CFL advocate: Michael Siminovitch, director of the California Lighting Technology Center at the University of California, Davis. ‘In the pursuit of the holy grail, we stepped on the consumer,’ he admits. The new bulbs are ‘falling short’.”

You can read Istook’s enlightening column here. 

Register Now For Holiday Break Fitness Potpourri

Fitness, Greenfield SD facilities

For adults and teens ages 16 and over...

By popular demand, join us for this special holiday break “mix”!  Stay fit while enjoying a potpourri of fitness classes and instructors.  All classes will be taught with the beginner in mind.  For those no longer beginners, try a different class to spice up your fitness routine.

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E15 in boats

Ethanol, Legislation, News you can use


This past summer, I warned about a plan by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to increase the amount of ethanol in gasoline. Because the increase could wreak havoc on boat engines, the EPA’s plan is opposed by the Boat Owners Association of The United States (BoatU.S.) and the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA).

Here are the latest developments. The ethanol industry is seeking a waiver from the EPA to sell gasoline with 15 percent ethanol. The EPA and the Department of Energy have yet to conduct testing to determine the effect gasoline with a higher level of ethanol would have on marine engines.

Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) have introduced S.1666, the "Mid-Level Ethanol Blends Act of 2009" that would ensure that new fuels such as E15 are compatible with engines, including boat engines.

You can read S.1666 here. 

If you agree with S.1666 that has the support of the National Marine Manufacturers Association,  you are encouraged to contact U.S. Senators Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold.

This 2006 Boston Globe article demonstrates that gasoline with just 10 percent ethanol was causing problems for boaters.

Christmas safety tips

News you can use


The Wisconsin Attorney General’s Office has released a series of Christmas fire prevention tips for Christmas trees, lights, candles and other decorations.

You can read them
here.

I-94 NORTH-SOUTH update: December 7- December 13

News you can use


Here is an update from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT) for the I-94 NORTH-SOUTH freeway project:

Construction update December 7 –December 13:
I-94 North-South Freeway Project update for Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha counties

All closures are weather-dependent and subject to change.
New long-term closures are BOLD.

MILWAUKEE COUNTY

Monday, DECEMBER 7

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Extended deer hunting season put on hold

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A grim fiscal report card for the states

Legislation, State budget, Taxes


From the past. 

“The latest news reports indicate Congress is poised to approve the $825 billion stimulus package. Some see the package as the savior for state governments suffering from massive deficits.  That won’t be the case…….a stimulus package would fail to come close to resolving the budget woes of the states.”
From my January 27, 2009 blog, “Congress does not have the magic wand to help the states.”



“What happens, though, when this one-time money, and it is important to note that this is one-time money, dries up? What happens when it is all gone and our needs and wants continue? Using it to prop up our budget would be like using lottery winnings. Once the winnings run out, the expenses remain and we simply face the same problem in two years, only without the same one-time money.”
From my February 25, 2009 blog, “State stimulus package a budget gimmick that won’t work.” 

This month, the National Governors Association and the National Association of State Budget Officers has released the second of its two yearly reports analyzing the fiscal status of the states.  “The Fiscal Survey of States” includes data on the states’ general fund receipts, expenditures, and balances, and was conducted between August and November 2009. Surveys were done by Governors’ state budget officers in all 50 states.

Here are some of the key findings of the survey:

States, like Wisconsin, increased taxes and fees. According to the survey, approved  tax and fee changes are expected to result in $23.9 billion in additional revenue for fiscal 2010 budgets. For fiscal 2010, 29 states enacted net increases while nine states enacted net decreases.  The largest increase for fiscal 2010 was in personal income taxes ($10.7 billion).

The increase in personal income taxes came during a recession as the unemployment rate rose above 10 percent.

Tax collections were down. The survey reports, “Fiscal 2009 estimated tax collections of sales, personal income, and corporate income are 7.4 percent lower than actual fiscal 2008 collections. Sales tax collections were 4.7 percent lower and personal income tax collections were8.2 percent lower. Corporate income tax collections were 16.1 percent lower relative to actual fiscal 2008 collections. Within state budgets, about 40 percent of general fund revenue is from personal income tax, 33 percent is from sales tax, and eight percent is from corporate tax, with the rest from various other sources.”

The forecast is that the decline in tax collections will continue for fiscal year 2010.  And it gets worse. The survey offers this grim outlook:

“State finances worsened in 2009 and are forecast to decline further during fiscal 2010 and likely into 2011 and possibly 2012. Nearly every state faced tightening fiscal conditions compared to fiscal 2008, when such fiscal difficulties were seen in about half the states. In fiscal 2009, 43 states reduced enacted budgets by $31.3 billion, while 36 states have reduced fiscal 2010 expenditures by $55.7 billion. In comparison, three states cut enacted budgets in fiscal 2007 and 13 states imposed cuts to enacted budgets during fiscal 2008.

The 2009 and 2010 cuts are further indication of the extent and speed of the fiscal deterioration. The downward trend during 2009 resulted predominantly from a significant slowdown in revenue collections. Based on state fiscal data from previous downturns, the impact on state budgets may lag the downturn in the economy. States are expected to take up to several years after the recession has ended to fully recover and begin expansion.

Due to the drastic decline in revenue collections, 42 states and Puerto Rico reported closing budget gaps during fiscal 2009 totaling $73.1 billion. Thirty-four states reported that they have already closed $111.8 billion in budget gaps for fiscal 2010. However, even after solving these gaps, an additional $14.8 billion in budget gaps currently remains in fiscal 2010 and states face at least $21.9 billion in budget gaps for fiscal 2011.”

The stimulus packages at both the federal and state levels were sold as job-creating engines that would revive the struggling economy. By yet another account, that hasn’t happened, and won’t.

Here is the “Fiscal Survey of States.”

Wisconsin is late on releasing prisoners early, and that’s ok

Corrections, State budget


It has been about five months since Governor Doyle signed the 2009-11 state budget that allows the early release of certain felons. As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, “
Not a single inmate has been released - and no money has been saved. Because of a lengthy inmate review process that must be conducted by Wisconsin Department of Corrections staff, the first inmate won't be released until next year, the agency says.”

Please take your time, everyone.

During this year’s state budget deliberations, I blogged, “Suggestions to save the state over $2 billion and ease prison overcrowding involve locking up fewer criminals and releasing many from custody early. The Council of State Governments Justice Center has made a series of recommendations to the state Legislature. They include alternatives that result in reduced incarceration. That is a recipe for even greater costs and harm to society. Wisconsin cannot afford this open door policy for criminals.”

I added the following:

“Why is the prison population growing? The Capital Times also examined the Council of State Governments Justice Center report, writing that, ‘A majority of inmates are incarcerated because they re-offend or violate the terms of their release. In 2007, 55 percent of prison inmates had violated terms of their parole, probation or extended supervision or were re-offenders who had committed a new crime.’

And we want to release more of them earlier? Certainly, inmates inside prison cost the state. Do not forget all the costs of criminals to society.”

While Wisconsin delays action on early release, the state of Oregon has had some experience with this issue, and we certainly do not want to have the same results.

The Oregonian reports:

“A law intended to save taxpayers $6 million by lopping time off the sentences of Oregon's nonviolent prisoners has unwittingly opened freedom's door early to hundreds of violent inmates. They include Troy Lee Hischar, who fired a bullet so close to his ex-girlfriend's skull that it clipped off a tuft of hair; Raul Peña-Jimenez, who gave a 16-year-old girl drugs and alcohol before sexually assaulting her; and Joseph Duane Betts, a convicted child molester who exposed himself to two boys.

Nearly 800 of the 2,397 inmates approved for reduced sentences were sent to prison for crimes as serious as robbery, arson and attempted murder or had previous convictions for crimes against people, The Oregonian found in an examination of state corrections data.”


There is a call to repeal the Oregon law because violent offenders were set free. 
Can we really be assured the same nightmare won’t occur here?

We cannot afford to ease up on corrections.

Brighten Up Your Holiday At City's Tree Lighting Ceremony

Community Events

Brighten up your holiday by celebrating with fellow neighbors at the annual City of Greenfield Tree Lighting Ceremony.

Saturday, December 12 from 1:00-2:00pm in the Greenfield City Hall Rotunda Area.

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Community Center Featured In NOW Newspaper

Community Center

Today's print edition of the Greenfield/West Allis NOW Newspaper features an article on the Greenfield Community Center on the front page!  Kudos go to NOW reporter Mark Schaaf for a well-written article, which highlights plans for converting the former Greenfield Public Library into a community center.  The photo features the old library sign, which has been converted into a "sack sign" highlighting the future home of the Greenfield Community Center.

The article is also featured online on the GreenfieldNOW.com website:
http://www.greenfieldwi.us/vertical/Sites/{3AC1C610-AAA9-4A5A-9791-57EBD1D696A9}/uploads/{C7E3CF08-18BD-42C8-A255-9D1FD1C763D6}.PDF

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Winter/Spring 2010 Recreator Now Online

Recreator, Community Center

Will your dreams come true in 2010?  The Greenfield Parks & Recreation Department hopes so with the conversion of the former Greenfield Public Library into the Greenfield CommUnity Center, otherwise nicknamed "The U". 

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Holiday Safety

A few quick holiday safety tips.

If you are traveling this holiday, try and make your house look occupied while you are gone.  With many presents left in homes, burglars are looking for homes that do not look occupied to ransack.  Use timers for your lights, have a neighbor pick up your mail and newspapers, and have a neighbor shovel your driveway if it snows.  Always keep the exterior of your house well lit during the hours of darkness.

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WINTER & HOLIDAY FIRE SAFETY

The following articles will follow the theme of the twelve days of Christmas, each day there will be a different Winter or Holiday Tip.

December 24, 2009

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One More Holiday to Go

Well, there is one more holiday left for 2009.  New Years Eve.  A time to reflect on the past year and a time to make plans for the coming year.  New Years Eve is also a big night for police departments across the nation.  It is the night when many drunk driving arrests are made.

With all the publicity regarding drunk driving in Wisconsin I am going to keep this message short.  If you are drinking you should not be driving.  If you are sober and driving, be especially careful and wary of the drunk driver that may be on the road.  If you are following a vehicle and you suspect the driver is intoxicated then call the police so that we can get that driver off the road.

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Need A New Years Resolution? How About Making A Donation For The New Community Center?

Community Center

When you receive your copy of the Winter/Spring 2010 Recreator from the Parks & Recreation Department, please read the inside front cover.  It has information for you to read regarding the transformation of the old library into a community center and a gift pledge form if you wish to make a tax-deductible donation.

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