Sept. 29, 2023
The September edition of Eggs & Issues featured local state legislators on September 29th, 7:00 a.m. at CTVC. Present were Senators Jesse James (R-Altoona, Dist. 23)and Jeff Smith (D-town of Brunswick, Dist. 31) and Representatives Karen Hurd (R-Fall Creek, Dist. 68), Dave Armstrong (R-Rice Lake, Dist. 75), and Rob Summerfield (R-Bloomer, Dist. 67). The legislators discussed local issues, including child care and tax cuts.
People attending the event got a chance to hear their state senators' and representatives’ thoughts on the recently passed state budget. The moderator, the Chamber's Vice President of Governmental Affairs, Scott Rogers, asked legislators their perspectives on the accomplishments of the legislature so far this year. The legislators also looked in-depth at issues like childcare, tax cuts, redistricting, and specific bills legislators are passionate about.
When discussing accomplishments the common theme was the UWEC Science building, the housing package, and shared revenue.
Rep. Summerfield discussed the importance of the shared revenue reforms but emphasized it is still a work in progress. He also mentioned the funding for UW-Stout Heritage Hall and the UWEC science building, as well as the housing package.
Rep. Hurd was excited about the inclusion of funding to transport and install a sediment collector for Lake Altoona.
The housing bill was one of the biggest accomplishments for Rep. Armstrong.
The increase in DAs, public defenders, the UWEC Science Building, and shared revenue were some of the most important issues in the bill for Rep. Smith.
Rep. James talked about shared revenue, specifically for Milwaukee. He also discussed the collaboration between state leaders and stated his hopes that there will be more collaboration in the future.
Rep. Hurd has worked on childcare bills in the Assembly and began the conversation on childcare.
“The problem with childcare is the entire business model is broken,” said Rep. Hurd, “we have to address the root cause.”
Rep. Hurd explained how she does not think continuing to resupply the childcare counts will help in the long term. Instead, she helped author a series of bills to address problems in the childcare industry.
This series of bills, which were passed in the assembly, includes: increasing the child-to-teacher ratios, decreasing age limits for childcare teachers, creating a new category of large family-based day care providers, allowing those without employer-sponsored flexible spending accounts to open state-issued child care savings accounts, and creating a new renovation loan program administered by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.
Sen. James agreed that including childcare counts in the budget will not help fix the issue.
“We have to have the conversations and we have to bring solutions and it’s not always about throwing money at it all the time, that’s not a viable, sustainable solution,” Sen. James said.
Sen. Smith said can’t disagree that there is a broken model but believes cutting provider age and lowering teacher-to-student ratios is dangerous.
Rep. Summerfield said hiring 16-year-old childcare providers is an option and makes it easier to get young people excited about going into the childcare industry as they get older.
In the bill passed by the Senate and Assembly tax cuts for all four tax brackets were included. However, the governor vetoed the tax cuts for the third and fourth tax brackets which include individuals making over $27,630 per year.
“I think having all four brackets cut is great policy for the state of Wisconsin,” Summerfield said.
He went on to say, “When [Governor Evers] vetoed the middle class, I thought that was a slap in the face to the citizens of Wisconsin.”
Summerfield said the Assembly recently passed a bill for tax cuts for just the third bracket.
Primarily because of the veto of the tax cuts, Wisconsin currently has a $4 billion surplus.
“But if that money goes into a state budget, that will fix your road- which you can’t do yourself. Maybe it will go into childcare counts because you can’t afford it yourself,” Sen. Smith said. “We have got to get out of this terrible blindness of tax cuts and flat tax, or no income tax is going to do something for everybody, because it’s not. It only hurts those at the lower income bracket and helps those at the high income bracket."
He said it is disingenuous to give people the impression that the tax cut would affect people in ways it would not.
Final Five: Voting for Federal Offices
Sens. James and Smith are co-sponsoring a bill called the Final Five that would change how the primary works for federal elections in Wisconsin.
It would make the primary an open primary, essentially removing the power of the parties. Voters would be able to vote for anyone in the primary, regardless of party, allowing candidates to forgo having to run under Republican or Democrat. The top five would then make it to the general election, which would be ranked-choice voting.
“[This] brings all candidates, from both parties, to have to listen, and maybe adopt some of those talking points that those [other] candidates bring to the table,” Sen. Smith said. “This is a great way of taking away the extremes out of the campaigns and also out of legislating.”
There may be a Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling in the near future that would change redistricting. The Assembly has also passed a redistricting bill that would follow the Iowa system for redistricting.
The Republican bill would have the Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB), a nonpartisan agency, draw the maps according to the rules of the state constitution. The map would then be voted on by the legislators— if they reject it the maps go back to the LRB who redraw the maps with the comments made by the legislators.
“This particular bill has been supported in the past almost unilaterally by all democrats.” Rep. Hurd said. “This is a good thing for Wisconsin, we need to be fair.”
“This is not the fair maps that we have been advocating for,” Sen. Smith responded.
Sen. Smith said that Republicans in the state are only trying to pass this bill so the lawsuit about Gerrymandering heading to the Supreme Court can be dropped.
Sen. James and Rep. Emerson has worked in the past on a safe harbor bill. This bill says that if anyone under the age of 18 is sex trafficked they cannot be charged with prostitution. Opponents of the bill say they feel the bill is legalizing prostitution and state-wide DAs think it removes the element of a bargaining tool. There will be a hearing in the Senate on the bill at the beginning of October
Rep. Summerfield has been working on a reform of the tiers of liquor licensing. A bill has been passed by the Assembly and is being voted on by the Senate.
Rep. Armstrong is working on a reform to the business tax credits. He has co-authored a business tax credit modernization bill. There is a scoring program that includes employer participation in housing and childcare.
Wisconsin Legislators discuss child care, final-five voting bill over breakfast in EC (Leader-Telegram $)
Taxes, Child Care, and Redistricting Emerge as Key Issues (Hamilton Consulting)
Bipartisan group of Wisconsin lawmakers propose ranked-choice voting and top-five primaries (AP)
Register for our next legislative panel...
Eggs & Issues: Holiday Legislative Breakfast
• Friday, Dec 15, 7:00-9:00 a.m. CVTC Business Education Center
Click here for details and to register
Posted by Mallory Williams, Governmental Affairs Intern