November 27, 2014

Wisconsin home sales rebounded in October

Wisconsin’s housing market recovered in October, after a lag in recent months.

The Wisconsin Realtors Association says its members sold 9.6 percent more existing houses last month than at the same time a year ago. Almost 6,300 homes were sold, compared to about 5,750 in October of 2013. The WRA says it’s the highest performance for an October since 2005.

The median selling price last month was $148,000, just over four percent more than the $142,000 median price the preceding year.

Realtors Association chairman Dan Kruse said his group made up some ground, getting closer to a strong market from last year. Almost 59,000 homes have been sold throughout the Badger State in the first ten months of this year, which is about two percent fewer than the year before.

State funding for new Bucks arena looking tenuous

There may not be any state taxpayer bucks for the Milwaukee Bucks. The new owners of the NBA franchise may be asking for as much as $200 million in state support, as part of the funding package to replace the BMO Harris Bradley Center in downtown Milwaukee. But that request could amount to a long shot in the face of opposition from Republicans who control both chambers of the Wisconsin legislature.

Bucks co-owners Marc Lasry and Wes Edens haven’t made any proposal yet – but Lasry’s decision to greet President Barack Obama during a recent visit to Milwaukee hasn’t earned him any points with Republican leadership, including Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who said that “didn’t make my job any easier.”

On Friday, Vos released a statement, regarding a Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo, which showed that the Bucks athletes and other employees paid state income taxes of approximately $10.7 million in the 2012 tax year.

“One fact that hasn’t changed is that any option that includes taxpayer resources will be a tough sell in the conservative Assembly Republican caucus. I continue to hear from members and my own constituents who are hard-pressed to giving away precious taxpayer dollars with so many demands on our resources. Moving forward we will examine all the options and ultimately do what’s best for Wisconsin and its taxpayers.”

A newly elected Republican state Senator also weighed in on the issue Friday. Senator-Elect Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) said in the statement that he believes state taxpayers have very little interest in paying for the costs of a new arena for the team.

“Over the last few months, the people of the 11th State Senate District told me what they hoped to see from the Legislature in the 2015-16 session. Their list didn’t include state dollars going to a new Bucks’ arena. The Bucks are apparently a profitable venture since they sold for $550 million. There are legitimate economic reasons to believe that a privately financed arena would also be a profitable venture.”

Lasry, Edens and former Bucks owner Herb Kohl has pledged money of their own, totalling some $300 million, towards a replacement for the current arena, which opened in 1988 and is viewed as inadequate by NBA standards.

Oshkosh Corp. building $80 million plant in Mexico

Months after announcing massive layoffs at Oshkosh Defense, the Oshkosh Corporation says they’re building a large new factory in Mexico. The the company insists it will not be at the expense of its U.S. employees.

Spokesman John Daggett said the plant is needed to keep up with equipment demands since the end of the Great Recession. “The best way for us to deal with this would be to make a manufactuing facility in Mexico that would serve as a supplier to the company, primarilty of fabricated components.”

Daggett said the Defense division, based in Oshkosh, is just one-quarter of the company’s profile. The nearly $80 million plant in Leon, Mexico will employ 1,000 people, and will make components for things like garbage trucks, concrete mixers, and construction aerial lifts.


UW’s Barry Orton expects industry push back on Net Neutrality

President Barack Obama has asked the Federal Communications Commission to take up the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality, the principle that says Internet service providers should treat all internet traffic equally. A University of Wisconsin telecommunications professor says the industry is unlikely to be enthusiastic.

“The two biggest arguments against it are coming from AT&T and Comcast,” Professor Barry Orton said. “The industry is saying ‘don’t regulate us heavily.'”

Orton said the industry will push for looser regulations, and even if the FCC does adopt something close to what the White House is calling for, Internet service providers will seek relief in the courts and in Congress, where Republican majorities are likely to be supportive. “It’s a full employment act for telecommunications lawyers in Washington.”

“Those of us who like entertainment, like to watch sports, like to watch movies, will pay. The only question is how much and who gets the benefit of that money,” Orton said. He noted that the FCC, as an independent regulatory agency, need only give the White House proposals the same consideration as any other public comments on the issue.

Oshkosh Defense cutting up to 370 workers

PHOTO: Oshkosh Defense

(Photo: Oshkosh Defense)

The Oshkosh Corporation is making another round of mass layoffs in its defense division.

John Daggett is a spokesman for the Oshkosh-based company. He says up to 300 hourly workers and 70 salary positions will be cut in December. Most of the salary position cuts will be temporary employees, early retirements, and leaving open positions unfilled.

Daggett says the move is necessary because U.S. military spending is down significantly.

The company cut 700 workers last July and 900 the summer before. Oshkosh Defense will still employ 1,800 workers in Oshkosh, and other facilities around the world, after the cuts.