Welcome back to another Weekly Insider.
This week will bring you news from the Capitol and around Wisconsin, circulating legislation, your weekly poll responses, and an all new Weekly Member Poll.
We hope you find this weekly report to be interesting and informative. If there are ever any issues that you would like to see included, or if you ever have any questions or comments, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a great week,
PROPERTY TAXPAYER OF THE WEEK
This week, we are happy to introduce WPT members to siblings, Bruce and Barb Krug, owners of Krug's Bus Service, Inc. in Medford.
Barb started out by explaining that she and her brother purchased the company in 2014.
"We had worked for our parents for many years before purchasing [the company] from the estate of our father, after his passing in 2014," she said.
On their website, Krug's offers a massive selection for their Deluxe Motor Couch Tours, and many incredible destinations- some near, some far. Some of the options for this year: Disney on Ice at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Brewers Family Day at Miller Park in Milwaukee, Holland Tulip Festival with the Beach Boys in Holland Michigan, and for the more adventurous travelers, Krug's even offered a new four-day, three-night "Mystery Tour," which just concluded last week.
We asked Barb about the biggest challenge facing her industry right now.
"Driver shortage," she said. "That's the biggest challenge that we face. But it's a nationwide problem."
In addition to the multitude of tours offered by Krug's, Barb explained that the company does so much more.
"We are the school bus contractor for the Medford Area School District with 21 bus routes, morning and afternoon. We also own five full size motorcoaches for school, charter, and tour trips."
Krug's also employs quite a few people.
"In addition to Bruce and I working full time, we employ three full-time mechanics, one full-time office worker, one part-time tour coordinator, and thirty-four part-time bus drivers," Barb said. "Even though we are very fortunate to have a great workforce, there is always a shortage."
Barb and Bruce spend as much time as they can with their families, and there's no shortage of family members.
"Bruce has three children with two step-children and three grandchildren. I have five children plus two previous foster children that are still very much part of the family, and two step-children, with a combined total of fourteen grandchildren," Barb said. "Life is exciting!"
Her favorite spot in the state is the Wisconsin Dells because of the theater, water parks, shopping, and casino.
Neither Bruce or Barb are politically active with state government.
"WPT is the organization of choice because of the results they obtain and for keeping small businesses informed of upcoming issues," she explained.
Some of the upcoming tours being offered by Krug's are the Brewers Family Day, Breakfast Cruise to Treasure Island Casino, Lambeau's Legendary Stadium & Packers Hall of Fame, Warrens Cranberry Festival, Fall Color Tour & Apostle Islands, Ontario & Quebec Provinces Tour, Mall of America, and many more. To inquire about any of these tours, or for more information on Krug's services, you can visit their website here, or call 800-472-2338.
NEWS FROM THE CAPITOL
AND AROUND WISCONSIN
JUNE UNEMPLOYMENT DOWN IN 70 COUNTIES
The Department of Workforce Development (DWD) last week released the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimate for unemployment and employment statistics for metro areas, major cities, and counties in Wisconsin.
The preliminary numbers for June show that unemployment rates declined in 11 of the states 12 metro areas over the year from June 2017 to June of this year, and stayed the same in one. The rates ranged from 2.8 percent in Madison to 4.1 percent in Racine.
In municipalities, the data showed that unemployment rates decreased or stayed the same in 28 of Wisconsin's largest 32 cities over the year from June 2017 to June 2018, and the rates ranged from 2.7 percent in Fitchburg and Sun Prairie to 5.0 percent in Racine and Beloit.
In Wisconsin's counties, the DWD said unemployment rates declined or stayed the same in 70 of the state's 72 counties from June of last year to last month. The rates ranged from the lowest of 2.5 percent in Lafayette County to 6.3 percent in Menominee County. Forty counties experienced or tied their lowest June unemployment rate on record.
GOV. WALKER'S REINSURANCE PLAN APPROVED BY PRESIDENT TRUMP ADMINISTRATION
President Trump's administration on Sunday gave the green light to Governor Walker's $200 million reinsurance plan, which was designed to lower premiums for those with coverage on the Affordable Care Act.
The plan would cost $200 million, and premiums are expected to drop by 3.5 percent on average in 2019 for those individuals in the "Obamacare" marketplace. Premiums would also fall 11 percent from what they would have otherwise been without the plan. The number of individuals in the Wisconsin marketplace are also expected to drop to around 185,000.
The plan targets individuals whose incomes are too high to receive federal subsidies, and would help insurance companies cover half of the costs of claims of $50,000 to $250,000, thereby allowing the companies to charge less for premiums.
About $34 million would come from Wisconsin taxpayers, and $166 million from federal tax dollars.
PRESIDENT TRUMP ANNOUNCES $12 BILLION IN ASSISTANCE TO TARIFF-IMPACTED FARMERS
President Trump last week announced a $12 billion plan, aimed at assisting farmers who have been impacted from recent trade disputes between the United States and a bevy of other nations.
According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the proposal would provide direct assistance for farmers, purchasers of excess crops, and commodity check-off activities, otherwise known as "trade promotion activities."
Most importantly, the plan would not require any congressional approval, as it will be administered through the Commodity Credit Corporation, which is a part of the USDA involved with addressing commodity pricing. More specifically, the federal government is looking to assist soybean, sorghum, corn, wheat, cotton, dairy, and hog farmers.
Over the weekend, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue told reporters that the plan could begin providing cash payments to farmers as soon as September, but would not "make farmers whole," but rather provide temporary assistance.
KIMBERLY-CLARK PLAN FACING CHALLENGES
At one of its two Wisconsin plants scheduled for closure, Kimberly-Clark's negotiations with the United Steelworkers began making progress last week. setting off a round of discussions on the company accepting a previously-introduced tax incentive package from the state, and keeping the plant open, along with its 610 jobs.
The United Steelworkers union then told reporters last week that despite their positive negotiations with the corporation, nothing will happen to keep the company's Cold Spring facility open unless the state "comes through" with a deal. Kimberly-Clark reiterated that it was now open to talks with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC).
The plan would give Kimberly-Clark refundable tax credits for its 610 employees' salaries, and create a sales and use tax exemption for all building materials, supplies, and equipment for the corporation. The estimated total cost for a 15-year incentive package is $109.5 million, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.
But the path seems relatively unlikely at this point. Though Governor Walker supports the plan, many seem unsure. State Senator Leah Vukmimr, who is also running in the GOP primary to take on U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, said said she would be talking to her leadership. The most conservative faction of the Wisconsin Senate, Senators Kapenga, Stroebel, Nass, and Craig, have not yet shared their thoughts.
The State Senate adjourned earlier this year, with the next legislative session beginning in January.
FEDERAL JUDGE ORDERS WISCONSIN TO PAY FOR GENDER REASSIGNMENT SURGERIES
A federal judge last week ordered the State of Wisconsin, via BadgerCare, to pay for a pair of gender reassignment surgeries for two disabled transgender individuals who filed a lawsuit earlier this year, claiming discrimination.
Cody Flack and Sara Ann Makenzie's alleged in their suit that the state's rule that does not allow for surgeries "to treat gender dysphoria violates the Affordable Care Act," and also violates their "right to equal protection," according to the Associated Press.
The Obama-appointed judge, William Conley, also granted an injunction, which bars enforcement of the state's rule, effectively allowing for this type of surgery to be covered even through the appeals process.
Conley said that the "likelihood of ongoing, irreparable harm facing these two individual plaintiffs outweighs any marginal impacts on the defendants' stated concerns regarding public health or limiting costs." Wisconsin's Medicaid program, BadgerCare, covers about 1.2 million residents of the state, at a cost of $9.7 billion per year. According to the AP, 5,000 of those 1.2 million are estimated to be transgender.
SALES TAX HOLIDAY BEGINS WEDNESDAY
The first day of the hotly-discussed sales tax holiday is this week Wednesday, and will run through Sunday for all Wisconsinites.
Between those days, various items such as clothing items under $75, and computers under $750, will be free from the state's 5% sales tax, along with many local counties' 0.5% local sales tax.
Despite some claims to the contrary, sales tax will still be charged on sports or recreational equipment, school instructional materials, art supplies, protective gear, and clothing accessories. A full list of items can be viewed by visiting the
Department of Revenue website.
ECONOMY HITS 4.1 PERCENT GROWTH IN Q2
In the 2nd quarter of this year, the U.S. economy saw a 4.1 percent growth rate, the highest number in four years, and the highest growth under President Donald Trump. In 2014, the third quarter hit 5.2 percent growth.
Immediately, Trump administration officials said could be the beginning of something not seen in nearly a decade and a half, three percent annual growth rate. Congressional Republicans pointed to the monumental tax reform bill passed in late 2017 as reason for the strong numbers, and said they plan to use the solid economic news as fuel for the re-election bids in the upcoming November midterms.
Some pundits said President Trump was in need of a strong-growth quarter, as the economy got off to a sluggish start in 2018, and in 2017, the country only realized a total 2.3 percent growth. The President is also facing strong criticism and scrutiny from both sides of the aisle due to the ongoing international trade disputes. Projections for the 2018 deficit were also released, with an $890 billion deficit in 2018 expected to grow to $1 trillion in 2019.
WEEKLY MEMBER POLL RESULTS
Wisconsin Agriculture Secretary Sheila Harsdorf has requested that the federal government begin enforcing food labeling laws on plant-based products that are marketing using the same names as dairy products (i.e. milk). After reading the article: good idea or bad idea?
Not against the products, but I do not consider them a "milk" product.
I don't use plant based products and they should not be using the word Milk for their product.
No they should not. They are NOT a dairy product
It already is labeled correctly. Quit wasting time on this and move on to something important.
How can they call it milk when it's not milk!
Federal authorities are warning against possible cyber attacks in elections across the nation this year, though six new positions intended to protect Wisconsin against such threats have not been filled. Are you worried in any way about cyber attacks or foreign meddling in our elections?
I'm glad our state can also count paper ballots.
I believe foreign players try and influence the voters one way or the other, but I do not feel foreign actors can mess with the actual vote tabulation etc. Personally, I think the whole Mueller investigation is a waste of taxpayer's money. I totally believe it is a witch hunt.
So far I don't think cyber attacks or foregin meddlings are taking place. Yes the vacancies should be filled immediately.
Just got hacked and held for ransom. Thought we were safe. Everyone please check your systems!
Get rid of the new voting machines. Use the style that has a paper ballot stored just in case. A paper trail will never lie.
Nothing has shown to me that anyones vote has changed because of alledged attacks.
I already know it's a reality. You need to get some of the online stuff just shut off. Elections need to be secure, and you cannot be secure if you're plugged into or otherwise networked. At some point, a stand alone unit or a paper system is more secure. Period.
There have been election meddling attempts forever. Its nothing new.
After the Branson, MO tragedy last week, one former federal transportation safety official said that "duck" boats should be banned. Do you agree?
Yes I have been on duck boats before. So ban a duck boat is like saying we should ban airplanes cause of a bad accident and or vehicle accidents. Get real something is bound to happen in time.
Yes I have been on a duck and there were not any life preservers. They should be banned from going out in bad weather.
They seem safe to me. One accident should not determine the fate of all boats.
Many times and I feel safe. No reason to shut down the ducks in Wisconsin Dells
Yes I have been on the duck boat in Wis Dells and felt safe.
Been on a duck boat in the Dells. My kids all wore the lifevests. If people don't feel safe, put ON the life vest.
#1: Lets not jump the gun until an investigation has been completed. #2 I have been on the Wisconsin Ducks and have seen no problems. #3 How many of those killed knew how to swim. maybe the official should make schools mandatorily teach swimming
duck boats have been used for years - one incident shouldn't ban them. cars have yet to be banned - and they are in accidents causing injury every day
This was a freak accident. Even the bystandars were surprised with the storm.
Knee jerk reaction to ban the boats. You want to kill off one of the things that brings people TO Wisconsin? Uh uh. Dumb idea. Just make sure that boat drivers know that life jackets are MANDATORY. End of issue.
Duck oats safe if properly operated.
Sounds like it was partly poor decision making by the operator
Duck boats are just as bad for you as Arby's, but neither should be banned.
In duck boat at Dells. I enjoyed the ride,felt safe.
Never been on one, have no desire to go on one
Don't get swept up in national hysteria. It's tragic but how many years and rides that take place across the country that go without incident?
Never heard of waves that high on the Wisconsin River, and I'll bet if there weren't windows on that craft in Missouri, more people would have survived.
Property owners who have had their land designated as "blighted" by local officials in order to obtain it for the Foxconn development have again filed a lawsuit, claiming the "blighted" designation is "fraudulent" and "arbitrary." If you were the judge...?
People's property ownership should be respected.
Apparently the property owners were not offered enough for their property to make it worth selling it. Government over reach as far as I am concerned.
If you want new business,, you have give up property, even if its your family home. Filing a lawsuit doesn't always help and you lose more money in the end if you would have taken what was offered.
It's not fair the government designates that land as blighted just to pay less for it.
Eminent domain should only be for public projects
Assumjing they received fair or more than fair settlements - move on and buy your next place with the cash.
if Foxconn wants the property be up front about it - using the blighted label is dirty
Those people should be paid top dollar for their land, and not treated poorly in any way, shape or form. This is a travesty of epic proportions to NOT get them compensated fairly. You want to push them off their land for FoxConn to have it? They need to be WELL compensated for it. Anyone who argues should get a notice about their property being sold at a bargain price, without their consent, because of something coming in that wants their land. It'll feel different when you're on the receiving end.
If Foxconn wants the properties let them pay a fair market value.
City of Madison good at calling good properties blighted.
It is a complete travesty that reasonably well kept private property would ever be designated "blighted." It is a shameful display of government corruption.
If blighted means ugly, neglected, or rundown, I'm with the landowners.
Do you read the Property Taxpayer of the Week article each week?
yes i do but sometimes I dont even read the WPT weekly insider. Not very often but have in the past.
The stories are actually quite enjoyable. They are all hard working people who followed a dream and being rewarded for doing so!
Very interesting what and how other WPT members start their business.
I find a lot of good info here not only in the content, but some of the comments sometimes get me to re-evaluate my thinking. VERY good newsletter!
No, sorry, I don't find the fluffy taxpayer articles interesting at all, so completely skip them. Stick with governmental news and opinion, please.
It's good to know that many of our stories are the same. We take risks, sometimes fail, and keep working smarter and harder
It is the policy of WPT, Inc. to publish all comments that are submitted by members each week, often including broad differences of opinion within the weekly responses. Our organization values our role in fostering dialogue within our membership each week, but does not take responsibility for the individual views and opinions expressed herein.