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While you slept, the Grim Reaper strikes

State budget, Taxes


Early this morning, while you were asleep, the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, controlled by Democrats, was voting to increase your taxes.

The committee voted 11-5 to create a board that would have the power to impose a one percent sales tax in Milwaukee County. Sales tax revenue would fund transit, parks, and emergency medical services. Milwaukee County’s sales tax rate would, if this plan is approved by the full Legislature and Governor Doyle, increase to 6.6 percent.

The five members of the board that would set a one percent sales tax increase would not be elected by the voting public, and thus, would not have accountability for their actions. They would be appointed by the Milwaukee County Board chairman, the Milwaukee mayor and the governor.

The committee also voted 12-4 to establish a regional transit authority in Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha counties. A $16 car rental fee would fund the authority. The current fee is $2. The authority would operate a Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee commuter link that more than likely will be very costly. The nine-member authority, again, would be un-elected. Members would be appointed by the chairmen of the Milwaukee County and Racine County boards, the Kenosha County executive, the mayors of Milwaukee, Kenosha and Racine; and the governor.

As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, “The structure would ensure that local officials with Democratic ties would get to make appointments to the board while those with Republican links would not. For instance, Kenosha County Executive Jim Kreuser, a former legislator, would get to make an appointment while Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker – a Republican running for governor next year – would not.”

The Joint Finance Committee also rejected the idea of a requirement that light rail could be built in Milwaukee County only if voters approved.

I oppose the creation of boards or authorities with appointed members having taxing power.  This is taxation without representation.  The power to tax should only come from elected representation.

Hang on to your wallets, there goes millions of dollars. I vehemently oppose these new taxes and Regional Authorities. Our taxes are high enough, and in our darkest hours while we were asleep, the Grim Reaper swiped our credit cards, big time. 

The governor's ideas for stimulus money raise a question


On Thursday, Governor Doyle asked legislative leaders to approve legislation that would allow the state to “fully implement” the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The legislation would include:

    • Dept of Commerce. Modify the Enterprize Zone Program to add job retention as an eligible certification criterion to establish a zone; require companies to make a significant capital investment; have either 0ver 500 employees or be an original equipment manufacturer with a significant Wisconsin supply chain; provide refundable tax credits for up to 7% of payroll; limit tax credit claiming to five years.
    • Public Service Commission. Permit counties, municipalities, villages and towns to provide loans for energy efficient improvements to residences. Provide for repayment via special charges on property tax bills.
    • Dept of Administration. Modify income eligibility levels for the Weatherization Assistance Program and the state’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program to 60% of statewide median household income.
    • Dept of Workforce Development. Authorize unemployment insurance modernization changes in order to receive additional federal incentive funding available to states that reform UI eligibility rules to increase benefit coverage.
    • Office of the Commissioner of Insurance. Provide federal ARRA health insurance subsidies for individuals who have lost jobs at companies with fewer than 20 employees.
    • Dept of Natural Resources. Allow ARRA clean water and drinking water funds to be distributed as grants or loans at interest rates that may differ from the rates provided under current law; allow forgiveness of a portion of the principal amount of a loan.
    • Dept of Children and Families. Increase eligibility for community services block grant funding from125% to 200% of federal poverty level.
    • Office of Justice Assistance. Create a new federal appropriation for receipt of ARRA funding for Byrne and Justice Assistance Grant criminal justice programs.
    • Dept of Revenue. Exclude expenditures made related to ARRA funding from the Expenditure Restraint Program.
    • Dept of Public Instruction. Repeal the requirement DPI keep confidential any pupil records it receives from local school districts so that K-12 and post-secondary institutions can share data in support of education reform efforts.

That is an interesting list. The question I have is this:

How does any of this create sustaining jobs?

May 5 is Cinco de Mayo!

Come to the Greenfield Public Library and find all you need to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.
We have Cinco de Mayo:
Books
Cook books
Music

Very short notice for smoking ban hearing

Legislation


The chairman of the state Senate Health Committee that I serve on, state Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) has barely given 24 hours notice that the committee will hold a public hearing on a proposed statewide smoking ban Tuesday at the state Capitol.


A hearing on an issue of this magnitude and public interest should have been given far more advance notice.

Why the short notice from Senator Erpenbach? Did he, knowing that he’d give as little notice as possible to announce the hearing, intentionally stack the deck by informing organized supporters of the ban about the hearing? Did he conveniently fail to give the same courtesy to organized opponents?

He has to answer those questions. 

As of this post and with less than 24 hours until the hearing, the bill is still not available on the State Legislature website.

Here is an analysis of the smoking ban bill, Senate Bill 181, from the Legislative Reference Bureau:


Current law prohibits smoking in mass transit vehicles and specific enclosed, indoor locations, including the following:

1. Inpatient health care facilities, such as community based-residential facilities and nursing homes.

2. Prisons and jails.

3. Retail establishments.

4. Restaurants.

5. Governmental buildings.

Except for hospitals, school buses, day care centers where children are present, and a few other places, a smoking area at an indoor location may be designated by the person who is in charge of that location. For example, the person in charge of a business is the owner of the business and the person in charge of a prison is the state secretary of corrections.

Under the bill, smoking areas at indoor locations may no longer be designated resulting in a complete ban on indoor smoking at those locations with exceptions for
private residences, a limited number of designated rooms in lodging establishments, and certain residence rooms in assisted living facilities. In addition to the specified indoor locations listed under current law, the bill prohibits smoking in any public place or place of employment.

The bill defines “a place of employment” to be any
indoor place that employees normally frequent during the course of employment, such as an office, a work area, an employee lounge, a restroom, a conference room, a meeting room, a classroom, or a hallway. The bill also defines a “public place” to be a place that is open to the public, regardless of whether a fee is charged or a place to which the public has lawful access or may be invited. In addition, the bill defines an “enclosed place” for purposes of determining at what locations smoking is prohibited. An enclosed place must have a roof and at least two walls.

Current law provides exemptions from the prohibition against smoking for bowling centers, taverns, halls used for private functions, rooms in which the main occupants are smokers, and areas of facilities that are used to manufacture or assemble goods, products, or merchandise. This bill eliminates these exemptions.

Current law allows smoking in any restaurant that has a seating capacity of 50 individuals or less, or that holds a liquor license, if the sale of alcohol beverages accounts for more than 50 percent of the restaurant’s receipts. This bill prohibits smoking in any restaurant regardless of seating capacity or the number of liquor sale receipts.

Current law allows smoking in any tavern holding a “Class B” intoxicating liquor license or Class “B” fermented malt beverages license issued by a municipality.This bill prohibits smoking in any tavern. The bill also specifically prohibits smoking in private clubs.

Under current law, smoking is prohibited outside in limited instances. These include within a certain distance of the state capitol building, dormitories that are owned or operated by the University of Wisconsin, and day care centers where children are present. This bill makes no changes to these specific prohibitions, but adds a general prohibition against smoking outside within less than a reasonable distance from any entrance into a building, an openable window, or a ventilation opening that draws air inside. The bill also specifically prohibits smoking in sports arenas and bus shelters, regardless of whether they meet the definition of “enclosed place.”

C
urrent law does not limit the authority of any county, city, village, or town to enact smoking ordinances that protect the public’s health and comfort. This bill makes no change in this provision.

This bill requires that persons in charge of places where smoking is prohibited enforce the prohibitions by taking certain steps to ensure compliance, such as asking a person who is smoking to leave and refusing to serve the person if the place is a restaurant, tavern, or private club. This bill imposes forfeitures on persons in charge who fail to take these measures.

I-94 NORTH-SOUTH PROJECT update

News you can use


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

Listed below are all major (2 lanes, or full and long-term) closures on the I-94 N-S Freeway.

All closures are weather-dependent and subject to change. 


TUESDAY, MAY 5
I-94 EAST (SB) double lane closed Grange to Rawson Ave 9:30 p.m.-5:30 a.m College Ave. WB single lane closed at Howell Ave 9 a.m.-5:15 p.m.

WEDNESDAY, MAY 6
I-94 EAST (SB) double lane closed Grange to Rawson Ave. 9:30 p.m.-5:30 a.m West frontage road fully closed between County C and WIS 50 9:30 p.m.-5:30 a.m.

THURSDAY, MAY 7
East frontage road fully closed between County C and WIS 50 9:30 p.m.-5:30 a.m.

FRIDAY, MAY 8

SATURDAY, MAY 9

SUNDAY, MAY 10

LONG TERM CLOSURES IN MILWAUKEE COUNTY

I-894/I-43 WB exit ramp to 27th Street Until Late July

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Editorial rips short notice on smoking ban hearing

Legislation


Editorial writers at the Oshkosh Northwestwern support a statewide smoking ban. However, even they were outraged at the decision by the Democrat-controlled state Senate Committee on Health to "barely" give 24-hour notice of an important public hearing on Senate Bill 181,  a statewide smoking ban. The editorial says, in part:

"
The short-notice satisfies, barely, the 24-hour meeting notice provision of Wisconsin' open meetings law. If it meets the letter of the law, it certainly slaughters its spirit by making it difficult for supporters and opposition alike to get to Madison to offer testimony. Although political opposition has weakened over the past years, smoking bans are still highly controversial and this bill is sure to generate considerable interest.

While we support the ban, we cannot support a process that prevents residents — no matter their view — time to prepare travel to the capitol and make their case to their elected representatives.

Perhaps Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, who chairs the committee and called the meeting, saw it as an opportunity to catch opposition to the measure off-guard. Maybe he figures lobbyists on both sides of the issue will have no issue preparing and getting to the meeting. It could be innocent and innocuous on his part. But it smacks as the worst in state politics."

I would agree. Here is the editorial.


UPDATE: The Wisconsin State Journal also objects.

Smoking ban public hearing held in Madison

Legislation


The state Senate Health Committee that I serve on conducted a hastily called public hearing today on a proposed statewide smoking ban. The public notice about the hearing was barely 24 hours.

Waukesha Mayor Larry Nelson has stated he would support an exemption for cigar bars. A successful cigar bar that has invested heavily in their operation is in Waukesha

At the opening of today's hearing, I asked the legislative sponsors of the ban about a possible cigar bar exemption. State Senator Fred Risser (D-Madison) said even though the ban was modeled after the city of Madison’s smoking ban that exempts cigar bars, Senate Bill 181, the proposed statewide ban does not. Risser said, “Some people have talked to me about possibly putting in an amendment to grandfather in the current cigar bars which would handle your mayor’s concern. This bill like any other is subject to amendments and I understand your argument.”


Joette and Jeff Barta, owners of the Nice Ash cigar bar in Waukesha who were mentioned in the above Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article, testified in favor of a cigar bar exemption. Joette Barta said the lack of an exemption is “dooming us to failure.” Jeff Barta said it is impossible to successfully run a cigar bar business if smoking is banned. “We are here fighting for our economic lives,” said Jeff Barta. Joette Barta testified that if their customers are not allowed to smoke, the Barta’s will be unable to run their business they way they have the past three years.

The Barta’s correctly submit their bar is different than other bars. Smoking on the premises is essential. Otherwise, customers will simply turn to the Internet or catalogues to buy their products. The Barta’s are planning to spend $300,000 in improvements at the Nice Ash that will stimulate the economy and enhance downtown economic development in Waukesha.

“We have a ban, it’s called choice,” said Jeff Barta, emphasizing no one is forced to patronize the Nice Ash.

Barta informed the committee that the city of Madison smoking ban exemption for cigar bars stipulates that 10 percent of cigar bar sales be from tobacco. Jeff Barta said at his business, 30 percent of sales are attributed to tobacco.

I commend the Barta’s for their compelling testimony.

When I also asked supporters of the ban if casinos would be included, they said that would be unconstitutional. I am mindful that casinos must obtain government –issued liquor licenses to allow distributors to deliver liquor. Casinos must also comply with health provisions found in Chapter 101 of the state statutes. To simply dismiss the inclusion of casinos in a statewide smoking ban I find short-sighted.

Smoking remains a legal activity. I am concerned about the far-reaching negative impact the ban would have on many Wisconsin businesses at an economic time that we can least afford the loss of more businesses and jobs.

State Budget Watch: The deficit

State budget


The state budget deficit had been reported to be about $5.4 billion. That is old news.

The deficit is expected to get even worse, increasing by $1 billion or more.

The Wisconsin State Journal has details.

State Budget Watch: Do-over’s?

State budget


The co-chair of the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee says the committee may have to reconsider some of its previous votes taken on the proposed 2009-11 state budget.  

State Budget Watch: JFC shuts down for the rest of the week

State budget


The legislature’s Joint Finance Committee (JFC) has voted to close several Department of Natural Resources (DNR) walk-in centers and to increase boat registration fees.

The committee then decided to hold off on budget deliberations until next week so that revenue collection figures can be reviewed. There is concern the state’s fiscal crisis is getting worse and the JFC might have to revisit some of its previous budget votes.

Thank you, Americans for Prosperity

  Americans for Prosperity

NEWS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, May 6, 2009
Contact: Mark Block (262) 617-2716 or Phil Kerpen (202) 349-5880

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UPDATE: Seems to me I have heard that slogan before


Remember the hullabaloo over the selection of the state’s new, not-so original slogan?


Here is the price tag for, “Live Like You Mean it.”

Mixed results in Wisconsin’s annual report card

Business, Taxes


I often blog about reports that rank the state of Wisconsin in various categories: taxes, spending, income, business climate, competitiveness. These reports are critical because they provide a barometer of Wisconsin's rankings,  and provide guidance about where we need to go and how to get there.

Unfortunately, more often than not, the reports show Wisconsin’s performance to be less than sub-par.

There is some good news to share. Competitive Wisconsin, Inc. (CWI) is a nonpartisan group of state agriculture, business, education and labor leaders. The Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WTA) has prepared for CWI an annual report charting Wisconsin in 33 separate benchmarks. The report, "Measuring Success: Benchmarks for a Competitive Wisconsin," does offer some positive elements.

High school graduation rates increased during 2007 and remain above the U.S. average. Also on the rise, the percentage of Wisconsin’s 25-or-older population with at least a bachelor’s degree, increasing to 25.4 percent.

The number of doctoral degrees earned in science, engineering, computer sciences, and mathematics increased almost 16 percent during 2006.

Exports continue to be strong. As a percentage of output, exports rose more than 12 percentage points during the five years ending in 2007. Venture capital also showed signs of improvement.

During 2007, 8.2 percent of Wisconsinites were uninsured, compared to 15.3 percent nationally. Wisconsin’s uninsured rate was lowest in the region and the third lowest in the U.S. So why do we need state government health care?

That is the good news. Like any report of this nature, there is bad news to report.

Per capita personal income still trails the nation, by a full six percent.

The number of private businesses in the state is down for the second straight year.

Energy costs continue to increase.

Violent crime is up.  So why does Governor Doyle want to release more felons?

WISTAX has more details.

Congratulations, Danny Gokey!


Congratulations, Danny Gokey for moving into the final three of Fox's "American Idol."

You have made Milwaukee proud and have impressed millions of TV viewers nationwide! I can personally attest to the fact that fans in other states are watching your every move and listening to every note as they cheer you on.

Best of luck to you as you continue your quest for a potential first place finish and recording contract.

Please enjoy your day of honor in Milwaukee today:

7 a.m.: Danny arrives at WITI-TV (Channel 6) studios, 9001 N. Green Bay Road, Brown Deer.

11:15 a.m.: Danny visits AT&T store, 9078 N. Green Bay Road, Brown Deer.

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Summer 2009 Recreator Now Online

P&R Office, Recreator

In case you did not visit our website last week, the Summer 2009 Recreator was put online and is now available to view.  The print version is still at the printers and will be available soon.  As soon as it is, copies will be mailed to all City of Greenfield residents, with additional copies available at Greenfield City Hall and the Greenfield Public Library.

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Follow Us on Twitter!

P&R Office

The Greenfield Parks & Recreation Department has jumped on the Twitter bandwagon!

Here's our web address on Twitter:  http://twitter.com/gfwiparksrec

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Local Scams

Detective Sergeant Patrick recently sent me the following information to share.  Do not get caught up in these scams!  When something seems to good to be true it usually is.  Scammers prey on peoples good nature and their greed.  Don't be a victim.

Recently a few Greenfield residents have been swindled out of thousands of dollars. Most of these victims lost their money by “wiring” money to Canada in various scams.  If someone is attempting to wire a large amount of money to Canada, please provide them with this information sheet before completing the transfer.  If they have any questions, they can call the Greenfield Police Department at 414-761-5300. Secret ShoppersThis is an employment scam. This scam touts the ease of work, short hours and the money to be made from merely visiting stores each day to make purchases. Victims are told that they will be working on behalf of a variety of retailers. Often, the new employer will “accidentally” mail a check made out for the wrong amount and ask the victim to return the difference. Prize PitchA consumer may come in contact with a prize pitch scam by e-mail, telephone or mail. This scam is usually a prize notification. The consumer is led to believe that to be able to receive or collect the winnings; they must pay a series of taxes and fees.  It is important for all consumers to know that if they do win a legitimate prize, there are no taxes or fees to be paid in order to receive a prize in Canada or the United States.West African LettersThe West African letter scams are letters sent to individuals or businesses requesting assistance with foreign money transfers in exchange for a percentage of the transfer amount. These letters may be received by e-mail, mail or fax transmission. They emphasize that trust and honesty are important aspects in this confidential business transaction. The writer will often present himself as a doctor, a representative of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation or as someone in the Nigerian or some other African national government or military. Counterfeit ChecksCounterfeit checks are either altered or fabricated. They are commonly associated with the "too good to be true" scenarios. In a typical scenario, in exchange for goods or services, the potential victim is offered a check that the buyer supposedly already has in his/her possession. The amount of the check will be more than is owed, and the potential victim is asked to take the counterfeit check and reimburse the difference. This fraud capitalizes on check processing delays. The bank will hold the victim responsible for the counterfeit check. Never accept a check larger than the transaction value and always wait for the check to be fully cleared before delivering the goods or services. If it sounds too good to be true, it simply is. Helping family membersIn this scam, the victims (who are most often very elderly) receive a telephone call from a person acting as a grandson, granddaughter or other family member. The caller advises that they were involved in an accident or were injured and need cash wired for medical expenses or to pay for damaged vehicles.  

The Case Of the Passionate Readers

Greenfield Public Library, Nancy Drew

 Nancy Drew charm bracelets

Jeri Kosloske  wanted to show the library staff her Nancy Drew-themed charm bracelet, and we were so impressed that we wanted to share it.  Jeri and her friends are avid readers of the Nancy Drew mysteries, and also collectors of the books.

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2009 Medallion Quest Underway....Here's the 1st Clue

Medallion Quest, P&R Office, Parks

The annual Medallion Quest is back for another summer and this year is "going green".  Recently, our park staff has noticed that the chorus of croaking frog sounds are missing from our city parks.  Your assistance is needed to get it back.  We think the frog choir leader is lost somewhere in one of the Greenfield city parks.  "Think green" and follow the clues, research wisely and use your skills of observation to uncover our lost frog.  If you happen to find it...you're sure you will "ribbit" with joy!  Simply bring the official frog to the Greenfield Parks & Recreation Department no later than noon on Thursday, June 25th and claim your prize - your successful search will result in a prize package that will make your friends "green with envy!"

Medallion Quest 2009 – Clue #1 - May 28th

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HEAT RELATED EMERGENCIES

With summer right around the corner now would be a good time to discuss HEAT RELATED EMERGENCIES.  Heat-related emergencies are progressive conditions resulting from overexposure to heat.  If recognized in the early stages, heat-related emergencies can usually be reversed.  If not recognized early, they may progress to heat stroke, which is a life-threatening condition. 

The first step is always prevention:

  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Rest frequently.
  • Stay inside if possible, stay in an air conditioned place.  If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library-even for a few hours spent in air conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat.  Call your local health department to see if there are any heat-relief shelters in your area.
  • Drink lots of fluids-CAUTION:  If your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid yoiu drink or has you on water pills, ask him/her how much you should drink while the weather is hot.  Don't drink liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar; these actually cause you to lose more body fluid.  Also, avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.
  • Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90's, fans will not prevent heat-related illness.  Taking a cool shower or bath, or moving to an air-conditioned place is a much better way to cool off.
  • NEVER leave anyone in a closed, parked vehicle.
  • Although any one at any time can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others.  Check regularly on: 
  • Infants and young children
  • People aged 65 or older
  • People who have a mental illness
  • Those who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure
  • Visit adults at risk at least twice a day and closely watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.  Infants and young children, of course, need much more frequent watching.

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