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.
Wisconsin is one of six states that has gained new power to track sex offenders living on tribal lands because of a provision in a new federal law.
The provision is part of the new Adam Walsh Child and Protection Act that was signed into law by President Bush.
Stateline.org reports, “The change would mean the states soon must ensure that sex offenders within tribal borders register more frequently with law enforcement authorities and often for longer periods of time. The states must add molesters to existing online sex-offender registries and collect and publish information about their appearance, whereabouts and even the cars they drive. In some cases, they must see that offenders who currently are not behind bars are identified and added to state registries retroactively.”
Read the entire Stateline.org article.
During fiscal year (FY) 2006-07, state agencies administered $9.6 billion in federal funding through more than 1,600 federal programs and grants that included 930 research and development grants awarded to the University of Wisconsin (UW) System.
The amount of federal funding administered by Wisconsin has changed very little since fiscal year 2002-03.
How is the money spent? According to the LAB:
“The Department of Health and Family Services (DHFS), the Department of Workforce Development (DWD), the UW System, the Department of Transportation (DOT), and the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) “administered 95 percent of the federal cash and noncash assistance the State expended in FY 2006-07. DHFS was responsible for the largest share: $3.8 billion, including $2.8 billion in federal funding for the Medicaid Cluster. The Medicaid Cluster includes Medical Assistance, the largest federal program administered by the State of Wisconsin. Additional state funding to support Medical Assistance totaled $1.9 billion in FY 2006-07.
Other federal programs administered by DHFS include the Food Stamp Cluster, the State Children’s Insurance Program, Foster Care—Title IV-E, and Adoption Assistance.
DWD administered $1.5 billion in federal financial assistance in FY 2006-07. DWD administers the Unemployment Insurance program, as well as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Child Care subsidy, and Vocational Rehabilitation programs.
UW System disbursed a total of $1.3 billion in federal funds, including $648.5 million in student financial aid and $512.9 million in research and development grants.
Most of the $729.8 million in federal funding administered by DOT supported the Highway Planning and Construction program, which had FY 2006-07 expenditures of $638.2 million.
DPI provided the majority of its $688.0 million in federal funding to local schools and other entities for education and child nutrition programs. Other state agencies disbursed another $461.2 million in federal funds during FY 2006-07.”
The audit concentrated on 22 programs that accounted for 69.9 percent of Wisconsin’s federal funding during FY 2006-07. Programs were selected for review based on their size and the risk of noncompliance with federal rules. The good news is the LAB determined that state agencies have properly administered federal grant programs and complied with federal requirements.
During FY 2007-08, the state did return $15.5 million to the federal government due to excess balances in an internal service fund administered by the Department of Administration. Excess balances are prohibited under federal grant rules.
Another concern was raised about food stamps issued to prison inmates. The LAB matched data on food stamp benefit recipients with data from the Department of Corrections and reviewed a group of 12 inmates that appeared most likely to have improperly received food stamp benefits. The LAB found that 10 of the 12 inmates did receive food stamps inappropriately received food stamp benefits while in prison. The recommendation from the LAB is that the state recover those benefit payments.
The Single Audit has 27 recommendations to improve the state’s administration of federal funding.
Here is the full audit report.
Once again, I commend the LAB for another outstanding and thorough review.
The state Office of the Commissioner of Insurance has issued a consumer alert, warning senior citizens to be aware of and question sellers of insurance and annuities. There is a chance the seller is only in it for himself.
The Insurance Commissioner’s Office offers the following suggestions to avoid becoming a victim of fraud:
• Question the credentials of “experts.”
Individuals often boast designations and credentials using terms such as “certified,” “accredited,” “retirement planner,” “senior advisor” or “senior consultant” to convince people they have special expertise to help seniors choose investment strategies. This may not be true. While some organizations require members to complete a difficult study program and pass extensive exams to earn designations, other organizations have much less stringent requirements that can be completed in a three- or four-day course. In the worst cases, some senior “expert” designations are earned simply by paying a monetary fee. Ask about the person’s qualifications and training, and check them out for yourself. Find out how the person earned the credential, and whether the credential actually requires learning more about older adults’ financial needs and/or more about the product being sold.
• Beware of the “Free Lunch” Seminar.
According to a report from FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority), four out of five investors 69 years and older received at least one invitation to a free lunch investment seminar in the past three years and three out of five received six or more. There is often a catch to a “free” seminar, even those advertised as unbiased and educational. Federal regulators examined 110 firms that offer free lunch seminars and found that every seminar was a sales presentation. While certain information provided at seminars may be useful, a seminar may end up being a sales presentation for life insurance, annuities, other insurance products, or investments. Such seminars often use enticements, including free meals and door prizes, or claims of “urgency” or “limited space,” in order to encourage you to attend. You should be aware that if you give contact information on a registration form, that information will be used to solicit you for future sales and marketing efforts.
• Does this product make sense for you?
Always be sure you understand what is being sold. Do not hesitate to ask questions. Financial products can be complicated even for the most informed consumer. You should be able to explain this product in your own words to someone (other than the salesperson) in a way that makes sense to both of you. The product must be right for you, your lifestyle, your financial goals, and your tolerance for risk. It’s rare that one product will meet the financial needs and goals of everyone attending a seminar. Be cautious about any promises that one product can meet all your financial needs. If the presenter doesn’t know your personal financial situation, he/she can’t know if the product is right for you.
• Never make a final decision at a seminar.
A Boston Globe article reported that “more than a third of ‘free lunch’ seminars aimed at seniors focused on unsuitable or fraudulent investments.” If you attend a seminar, you may be exposed to high pressure tactics, frightening stories about individuals who don’t have enough money to live on in retirement, and promises of amazing financial returns. Consider obtaining a second opinion from an accountant or other professional who will not benefit financially from the sale.
• Report scams.
If you feel that you may have been pressured into purchasing a product that is not right for you or if you feel that you may have been misled during a sales presentation about the product you purchased or if you simply don’t understand the product, do not hesitate to contact your state or federal regulator for assistance. Regulatory agencies are available to assist you. Financial scams happen to all kinds of consumers, including seniors. Do not let fear or uncertainty keep you from contacting the proper regulatory agencies.
In all cases, before you disclose any personal or financial information, call the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance at (800) 236-8517 or the Department of Financial Institutions Division of Securities at (608) 266-1064 to verify that the person is licensed to sell insurance products or securities products, and that there have been no complaints or enforcement actions against the person. If a company hosted the seminar, contact the Better Business Bureau (or check their website at www.bbbonline.com) to learn about any complaints. To check for complaints against securities brokers, visit the Web sites of the NASAA (North American Securities Administrators Association) at www.nasaa.org, or FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) at www.finra.org.
Here is the Boston Globe article referenced above.
If you know a senior that could benefit from this information, please forward it to that senior.
As you know, the Legislature approved and Governor Doyle acted on, with some vetoes, the budget repair bill. I voted against the budget repair bill because it didn’t repair anything.
The structural deficit at the time the governor signed the 2007-09 state budget into law (that I voted against because it increased taxes and fees by $763 million) was $896 million. A structural deficit occurs when spending is put off into the next budget cycle or spending commitments are made into the future without adequate revenue.
The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB), the highly regarded analysts who crunch all the budget numbers for the state, has released a memo reporting that following the enactment of the budget repair bill (2007 Act 226), the structural deficit has ballooned to $1.682 billion dollars.
How is this a budget fix?
This kind of budgeting is risky and irresponsible. We have merely created another budget crisis for the near future.
The state needs to get far more serious about getting its fiscal house in order, once and for all.