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.
Imagine getting a letter from the state Department of Revenue (DOR) declaring that you overpaid your taxes and you receive a check for $3,000.There are more details in today’s Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel. You can read the article here.
Four months later, you get a letter from the Department of Revenue that you underpaid, and now owe the state thousands of dollars plus interest.
You pay the original refund, but not the interest because a Department employee tells you that you do not have to.
A few weeks later, another letter arrives, saying you owe interest and the state is going to charge a collection fee.
It happened to a Waukesha resident who contacted me and questioned why he had to pay for the Department erroneously mailing him a refund check.
The story has a happy ending. I looked into the matter and discovered the Department mailed incorrect tax refunds due to a computer problem. The Waukesha man and many other taxpayers with the same predicament, a total of 199, no longer have to pay interest because of the Department’s mistakes.
I have drafted legislation prohibiting the DOR from charging interest to taxpayers for DOR mistakes. The legislation will be introduced soon.
The Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR) is urging income taxpayers to file electronically for quicker returns and fewer mistakes.
For those who file with a paper return, the DOR offers suggestions.
Here are more details, along with changes for this year’s forms.
The state Senate Committee on Campaign Finance Reform, Rural Issues and Information Technology will hold an executive session Tuesday, January 29 at 10:00 a.m. on Senate Bill 380 (SB 380).
SB 380 requires that gasoline sold in Wisconsin must contain the following percentages of ethanol:
(a) In 2009 to 2014, 10 percent.
(b) In 2015 to 2019, 15 percent.
(c) In 2020 to 2024, 20 percent.
(d) In 2025 and thereafter, 25 percent.
There are penalties for refiners who fail to comply.
A refiner may be required to forfeit not more than $10,000 for a first offense, not less than $500 nor more than $50,000 for a second offense, and not less than $1,000 nor more than $100,000 for a third and subsequent offense.
Here is a copy of SB 380.
I understand the importance farmers place on ethanol. The Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation says, “The use of grain for ethanol adds up to 10-15 cents for every bushel of corn for Wisconsin farmers.”
Certainly we all wish success for our hard-working farmers. However, the market should decide ethanol sales to consumers, not the government. The government should not interfere with the lives of consumers by determining the fuel they put in their gasoline tanks.
For that reason, I made the successful motion on the Senate floor in the previous legislative session to kill the bill that would have mandated gasoline sold in Wisconsin contain 10 percent ethanol.
As I have stated in the past, if ethanol is of great benefit, then the market should decide. At this time, I do not see a groundswell of support among consumers demanding this product.
The Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services (DHFS) says the Department is not going to use Social Security numbers to identify recipients of state healthcare programs. Department Secretary Kevin Hayden told the state Assembly Committee on Consumer Protection and Personal Privacy that DHFS is working with Electronic Data Systems, the Texas-based company that erroneously printed the Social security numbers, to change identification numbers to a unique 10 digit number rather than using Social security numbers.
DHFS Secretary Hayden said the current 10-digit number system includes Social Security numbers. The system will be replaced with a fake identifying number that is not based on Social Security numbers.
The news is less reassuring from state Department of Revenue (DOR) Secretary Roger Ervin. Ervin told the same committee that, according to the Janesville Gazette, state agencies are moving away from using Social Security numbers as identifiers except when absolutely necessary.
After three breaches of privacy in the past 13 months, I am unable to fathom a situation where it is absolutely necessary to publish the Social Security number of any recipient of a state service.
The Social Security numbers of hundreds of thousands of state residents were exposed in recent mailings. The numbers were clearly visible, putting thousands of Wisconsin residents in jeopardy of identity theft. The Texas-based EDS is providing free credit monitoring to affected residents and will cover all expenses incurred because of the mistake.
This is interesting.
Secretary Hayden is asking Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen to think about legal action against EDS.
“Confidential information should never have been printed, and this failure has exposed our members (recipients of state services) to identity theft,” said Secretary Hayden.
If confidential information should never have been printed, as Secretary Hayden suggests, then it stands to reason that all state agencies should refrain from using Social Security numbers for identification. Wisconsin is the only Midwest state that still uses Social Security numbers as identification numbers. It is time for that practice to end.
The Boston Globe is reporting the cost of Massachusetts’ health care program has increased astronomically. Spending on the program will increase by more than $400 million next year. The Globe says it is “one of the largest increases in the $28.2 billion state budget the governor proposed.”
The reason for the large increase in the cost is simple and not surprising. The number of people registering for government health care is far greater than previous estimates. State and federal taxpayers are now responsible for practically all of the unexpected sticker shock.
The Globe reports, “The long-term cost of the insurance initiative continues to concern policy makers and analysts, who are worried that it may become unaffordable. This year the state is expected to exceed the initial budget for the health insurance initiative by about $245 million, and next year's budget would boost spending by another $400 million.”
There is a great deal of uncertainty swirling around the Massachusetts government health care debacle. The announcement of the plan resulted in far more people signing up that drove up the cost substantially that the state may be unable to pay. Wisconsin would be wise to learn a valuable lesson from Massachusetts and refuse to go down the same nightmarish path of government health care.