November 20, 2014

DOA projects Wisconsin revenues to fall short of spending requests

Budget requests from Wisconsin government agencies exceed expected state revenues in the next two-year budget cycle. Those numbers will be a starting point for Republican Governor Scott Walker and GOP legislators as they begin the task of putting together a state budget – one they hope will include a tax cut.

According to agency requests and revenue estimates released Thursday by the state Department of Administration, the “ask” is $2.2 million more than what will be taken in through state taxes for 2015-2017.

But DOA Secretary Mike Huebsch and state Assembly Speaker Robin Vos make it clear – state agencies will not get everything they want. Huebsch called that a “flawed assumption” and Vos said the requests reflect a “wish list . . . that’s not going to happen.”

The co-chairs of the state’s budget-writing Joint Committee on Finance, State Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and State Representative John Nygren (R-Marinette), also released a statement. “These numbers are an exercise based on agencies wish lists which will not find their way into the Governor’s budget,” it read in part. “For example, (Department of Public Instruction Superintendent) Tony Evers $700 million dollar increase despite the fact that our most expensive districts are among our lowest performers.”

Huebsch, in a letter to Walker and state lawmakers, stated that general purpose revenues are expected to increase by $392 million in the first year of the budget cycle, and $618 million in the second year, for a total take of $1.4 billion.

New Wisconsin State Capitol Christmas ornament unveiled

Capitol_Christmas_Ornament 2014

Wisconsin State Capitol Christmas Ornament 2014 depicts the Assembly chamber. (Submitted photo)

The program began in 2004. Each year, the souvenir focuses on a specific aspect of the state’s historic Capitol building. The 11th annual ornament features a replica of the Assembly chamber, its large mural, and Civil War mascot Old Abe above the speaker’s chair looking over the chamber.

Cate Zeuske is the ornament designer and former state Treasurer. “We wanted the largest mural — the first and largest mural — it’s 37 feet across. To me, it’s the favorite in the state Capitol,” she says. “It’s called, ‘the State of Wisconsin: its past, present, and future’ and I think it really does capture our rich history.”

AUDIO: Zeuske talks about the mural on the wall of the Assembly chamber, above the dais.   :30

Zeuske believes this limited edition decoration will be a keepsake. Only 1,900 ornaments were purchased. She notes, the goal is to promote and educate others about the beautiful and historic state Capitol building, rather than just raise money. That’s why the $16 price tag hasn’t increased since 2005.

It’s a labor of love for Zeuske, who volunteers her time. All proceeds go to the State Capitol Restoration Fund. “That’s a fund that is used to be able to purchase things perhaps outside of state government that may be retained for historic value in the Capitol or to give the public an opportunity to really view and experience the state capitol.”

Just recently, a glass perch was constructed up inside the Capitol dome to offer visitors a bird’s eye view of the rotunda using some of those funds.

Wisconsin State Assembly Chamber (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Wisconsin Assembly Chamber (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Since 2004, more than $50,000 has been raised for the fund through the sale of the collector’s item.

Zeuske hopes to continue the tradition for at least a few more years. She explains, the 100th anniversary of the completion of the Capitol building comes in 2017. So, she says, it seems like a good time to mark the milestone.

All the ornaments are made in America by the Chem Art Company of Rhode Island, the same company that also produces the annual White House ornament. The Capitol keepsake is set in a special gift box, in which buyers will find some historical information about the Wisconsin landmark. It sells for $16.

The 2014 state Capitol ornament is available for purchase at the Wisconsin State Capitol Information Desk, the Wisconsin State Historical Society Gift Shop and online store, and the Wisconsin State Veteran’s Museum. They are also on sale at the Monona Terrace Gift Shop, Orange Tree Imports in Madison and Tis the Season Gift Shop in Middleton.

Wisconsin unemployment rate fell to 5.4 percent in October

Wisconsin’s unemployment rate fell to a new post-recession low last month.

Figures released by the state Department of Workforce Development on Thursday show Wisconsin’s unemployment rate fell to 5.4 percent in October, down a tenth of a point from September and a big decline from 6.5 percent in October of 2013. It’s the lowest Wisconsin’s unemployment rate has been since the recession hit in 2008.

The state also stayed below the national rate of 5.8-percent.

DWD says the state added about 4,000 private sector jobs last month, while revised September numbers show the state added about 8,100 jobs during that month.

Woman dies after hatchet attack in Mount Pleasant

The victim of a Racine domestic violence incident is dead and her estranged husband is jailed on charges of that include homicide, mayhem, and kidnapping.

Police say the 36-year-old victim from Arlington Heights, IL had come to a friend’s house in Mount Pleasant to escape her husband, but the 38-year-old man confronted her at the home Wednesday night. The woman was struck in the head with a hatchet and was dragged to a vehicle, which left the residential address a few minutes before police arrived.

A 911 call came in a short time later, reporting a woman bleeding at a village motel. The suspect was found in a room and taken into custody, while the woman was taken by Flight for Life to Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee, where she later died.

Police say the woman had recently filed a restraining order against her husband in Arlington Heights. The names of the victim and the suspect have not been released. A police investigation into the attack continues.


Wisconsin school administrators release policy proposals

A lobbying group representing school district administrators in Wisconsin has unveiled an education policy wish list. About 100 administrators gathered in Madison on Wednesday to present a set of detailed recommendations.

John Forester is with the Wisconsin School Administrators Alliance said the recommendations, contained in a 44 page document, are from a working group that began tackling the issues in late April, looking for “evidence based” solutions. “Our members late last session became increasingly concerned that education policy was being developed on ideology and emotion, and not on evidence,” he said.

Forester concedes that not every recommendation will get support from Republicans in the legislature. “We understand that this is a difficult environment fiscally, and we also understand that a number of the things that we are recommending probably won’t rise up high on their agenda.”

They include things like greater investments in early childhood education to more money for technology and innovation. All will face close scrutiny in the Republican-controlled legislature.