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Conservatively Speaking

State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.

E-Update from the Desk of Governor Scott Walker

One of the most important duties I have serving as your Governor is to provide you directly with updates related to the operation of our state government. I also frequently provide updates on Facebook (Governor Scott Walker) and Twitter (@govwalker). Please feel free to share this update with your family, friends, and others who may be interested in state government operations.

Major Drought Assistance Initiatives Launched

While some areas of our state recently received minimal rainfall, southern Wisconsin remains under extreme drought conditions. Other areas have been designated as abnormally dry, in a moderate drought, or in a severe drought.

Most people understand the immediate and devastating impact of the drought on crops and the farmers in the affected areas; however, we need to increase awareness of the potential long-term impact on Wisconsin’s entire agricultural industry. One of the major concerns we have right now, beyond just crop loss, is providing adequate feed for Wisconsin’s dairy herd. Many dairy farmers are considering sending their herds to slaughter or selling them off, if they don’t have access to enough feed to keep their cows productive. If this happens, it would have a ripple effect among Wisconsin’s dairy producers, manufacturing industry, and, ultimately, the export market for many years.

Recently, we took the following actions to reduce the negative, long-term impact of the drought:

  • Issued an executive order declaring a drought across the state and expediting the permitting process for farmers, who need to utilize additional water sources for irrigation;
  • Directed the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to increase weight limits for hauling hay—making it easier for dairy farmers to obtain feed for their herds;
  • Started accepting applications for the Drought Relief Program, which lowers interest payments for drought affected farms; and
  • Opened up 11,500 acres of state-owned lands, so farmers can harvest its hay.

Last week, I toured the devastation caused by the drought and brought together farmers, local, state, and federal officials, dairy producers, and others to discuss the best course of action moving forward. I will continue to receive updates on the drought situation multiple times each week. Hopefully, we’ll have good news to report in the near future.


Education Reform

This week, I traveled to Harvard University to discuss the results of a study comparing student achievement growth in the U.S. with the top-performing nations around the world.

Unfortunately, the data shows American children are not improving as quickly as those in many other countries. In fact, children in eight countries (Portugal, Hong Kong, Germany, Poland, Liechtenstein, Slovenia, Columbia, and Lithuania) improved twice as quickly as those in the U.S. between 1992 and 2011.

Over the same time Wisconsin’s growth was minimal and ranked 38th out of the 41 states with data available to be studied. These results are consistent with what we’ve seen over the years. Similar data showed Wisconsin in the top few states for reading in the mid-nineties; yet in 2011, we were somewhere in the middle of the pack.

Last year, to reverse this trend, I convened the bipartisan Read to Lead Task Force, where we heard from educators, researchers, and others about what we can do to improve reading performance and maximize student growth potential. Our public schools are blessed with some of the best teachers and reading specialists in the world, but if we want to keep up with other states, we must provide those hard-working professionals with the latest research and tools they need to help our kids succeed.

To get ideas about what we could do differently, we looked to other states. This study found that the states which grew the most in education—states like Florida, Massachusetts, and Delaware—were not necessarily the states that increased spending the most. These states spent money wisely and instituted forward-thinking reforms.

We’ve built off of their ideas and made tangible changes in Wisconsin. For instance, we’re working to use reading screeners for all kindergarteners to let teachers and parents know who is struggling and why. Additionally, we’re focusing on quality education data to make sure accurate information drives improvement.

With two sons who went through public schools, I understand the importance of having a strong public school system in Wisconsin. Moving forward, I will continue to highlight the steps we have taken to enact education reform that ultimately improves student growth.

Wisconsin Summer Events Underway

This week, I had the opportunity to attend the EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh. The EAA is just one of the fantastic summer events Wisconsin hosts, which draws tourists from other states and, more importantly, provides entertainment for in-state residents. The EAA, and other similar events, provide huge economic boosts to area communities. I’d encourage all Wisconsin residents to attend some of the extraordinary events we have right here in our state. The Wisconsin Department of Tourism website maintains a list of upcoming summer events.

When traveling to one of these great events or elsewhere in Wisconsin, it’s important to plan for road construction. If you are looking to take a trip in Wisconsin, I’d encourage you to visit the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s website, which contains a list of road construction projects, as well as suggested detours.

 

Just Ask the Governor

Each e-update, I will answer a question submitted by a recipient of the previous e-update or from someone who contacts my office directly.

Question: Is there a way to explain the job loss that occurred in June?

Answer: That is a great question. It’s important to understand exactly what is being reported by the media. The statistics you heard about for June are called the Census Employment Statistics or CES. The CES is based off of a survey of roughly 3.5 percent of Wisconsin’s employers. These estimates are currently unreliable for Wisconsin because, for the first time ever, the federal government benchmarked this estimate off of only two quarters of actual jobs data (previously three quarters were used).

In fact, just this week there was communication between the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) and the federal government regarding this benchmarking issue. I’m encouraged we’ll be able to correct the problems currently causing inaccuracies in our state’s monthly jobs estimates. You can learn more about DWD’s exchange with the federal government by clicking here.

But back to your original question about June—the CES numbers are not a surprise for two main reasons. First, federal job creation numbers released earlier in the month were weak. And second, the flawed CES estimates inaccurately and negatively skew Wisconsin’s jobs numbers.

Last year, I indicated that I will track job growth by a statistic known as the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW), which is widely regarded as much more accurate than the CES. The QCEW is an actual job count that is compiled from nearly 160,000 Wisconsin employers and reported four times a year.

The latest QCEW jobs numbers published showed that Wisconsin is heading in the right direction. After three years, where Wisconsin lost more than 100,000 private sector jobs, we added thousands of new jobs in 2011.

We are committed to working hard to keep growing Wisconsin jobs for workers and families in our great state.

It has been a pleasure communicating with you. It is an honor to serve as your Governor and represent the residents of Wisconsin.

Sincerely,

 

Governor Scott Walker

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