Dear Friends,

Great news! Wisconsin's unemployment rate is at an all-time low! December's unemployment rate tied our all-time low of 3.0%! It also set a new record for the lowest unemployment rate in December.  We added 43,500 private sector jobs including 11,500 manufacturing jobs last month.

Wisconsin's booming economy is also improving our state's bottom line. The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau announced this week that revenue estimates show our surplus is expected to grow by $137.5 million to $385.2 million. You can read more about that below.

On top of the $11.6 billion in tax relief, the state budget also helped shield taxpayers from economic uncertainty. We left $284 million in our rainy day fund and $200 million in the ending balance just in case there is a downturn. These new estimates are more proof Wisconsin is headed in the right direction in 2018.

As always, if you have any ideas on how to improve our great state, please do not hesitate to contact me by email at  Sen.Darling@legis.wi.gov or call me at 608-266-5830.   

On, Wisconsin!

Wisconsin on Strong Fiscal Standing

Wisconsin's finances are in great shape.  The estimates released by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau confirm what we already know: common sense reforms and prudent fiscal budgeting have put us in great fiscal standing.
 
Our economy is strong, consumers are confident, and revenues are up $137.5 million. The budget surplus is now $385.2 million. It's clear that our reforms and careful budgeting are working.
 
Thanks to historic tax cuts, conservative budgeting, and bold reforms, Wisconsin is back. Our state is buzzing with innovation and business. Major employers are relocating to our state, taxpayers are keeping more of their hard-earned money, and our unemployment rate is at an all-time low.
 
Before Republicans took control, our state's finances were in rough shape. Our unemployment rate was 9.2% and jobs were fleeing the state.  Because of the tough decisions we made, Wisconsin is now sailing along, much more efficiently and in much smoother fiscal seas. The horizon looks bright for Wisconsin, we look forward to seeing what it brings.
Darling Bill Helps Foster Kids Get the Care They Need

In Wisconsin, approximately 7,000 children are part of the child welfare system at any given time. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimate that 90% of children in foster care have been exposed to trauma. Yet, despite the significant need for youth in out-of-home care to have access to mental health treatment, they have significant barriers to receiving the treatment they need.  

Under current law, in order for a foster parent or out-of-home provider to access mental health information about a child in their care, they must first have obtain the written consent of the parent. This week, I testified with State Representative Pat Snyder of Schofield in favor of a bill we authored to make sure foster kids get the help they need.

According to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures, nearly 80% of youth involved with the child welfare system require mental health intervention and services due to developmental, behavioral, or emotional issues. The data also shows children in foster care utilize mental health services at five to eight times the rate of other Medicaid eligible children. Additionally, foster youth are more likely than children not in child welfare to use multiple psychotropic medications, like anti-psychotics, antidepressants, ADHD, or anxiety medications. 
 
Our bill reforms this system by putting the needs of the child living in out-of-home care first. It allows health care providers to disclose a portion of the mental health treatment record for a child in out-of-home care if the health care provider reasonably believes it is necessary for the proper care of the child. This legislation is instrumental in ensuring that the individuals caring for our foster youth on a daily basis have access to information like diagnosis, treatment plan, and medication management plan.
 
As a state, we place the well-being of children living in out-of-home care in the hands of our foster parents, kinship care, and group homes. How can we expect these individuals to provide needed mental health care for our kids if they are not aware of the child's daily treatment plan or need for medication? Our bill will prioritize the welfare of the child living in out-of-home care.

I'm happy to report our bill passed out of the Assembly Committee on Mental Health unanimously. It is now available for a vote in the full State Assembly.
Around the 8th...

Senator Alberta Darling | Sen.Darling@legis.wi.gov | 1-800-863-1113| http://darling.senate.wisconsin.gov
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