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.
WEAC (The Wisconsin Education Association Council), the state teacher’s union has released its 2009-10 Legislative Agenda. Topping WEAC’s list of priorities is repealing the QEO (Qualified Economic Offer).
This is another reason the November election is critical. If Democrats maintain control of the state Senate and take back control of the state Assembly, a legislature controlled by Democrats along with Governor Doyle will kill the QEO. The result will be a property tax explosion.
Some background is in order. The QEO was instituted by the Legislature after angry taxpayers statewide demanded action be taken to stop the tidal wave of huge property tax increases. Since its inception, the QEO has helped keep property taxes from being even higher than they already are.
Under the QEO, the compensation package for teachers including salaries and benefits is to be limited to a 3.8 percent increase. Prior to the implementation of the QEO, settlement packages with teachers were much larger, forcing a tremendous burden on taxpayers.
According to data from the Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB) that used figures from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, the average total teacher salary and benefit package increase in the years before the QEO was 8 percent during 1984-85, 8.4 percent during 1985-86, 7.7 percent during 1986-87, 7.4 percent during 1987-88, 7.1 percent during 1988-89, 7.3 percent during 1989-90, 7.4 percent during 1990-91 and 6.9 percent during both 1991-92 and 1992-93.
Enough was enough. Taxpayers protested. The Legislature heard and listened, and the QEO was adopted.
In reality, most school districts do not stay within the QEO, agreeing to settlements that surpass the 3.8 percent limit. The WASB reports that the average total package of salaries and benefits was 4.29 percent during 2006-07, 4.25 percent during 2005-06, and 4.31 percent during 2004-05. The percentages are higher than the rate of inflation, and more than likely are greater than increases provided in the private sector.
The QEO must remain intact. Without the QEO, spending and taxes will rise substantially, more people will leave their homes, more people will leave the state, and more jobs will be lost. We cannot afford to lose the QEO.
Proponents of large cigarette tax increases like to point to the additional revenue the tax hikes will bring in to the state Treasury. There is one problem with that assumption. What happens if many of the revenue sources, the cigarette smokers, stop smoking?
Maryland politicians are now dealing with that very scenario. While they begrudgingly admit some satisfaction with fewer cigarettes being sold in Maryland, they are less than thrilled that the smokers have simply gone to nearby Virginia where the cigarette tax is much cheaper. Maryland has lost sales and much-needed revenue and has reacted by making it a crime to carry two packs of cigarettes that weren't purchased in Maryland.
The Maryland experience demonstrates the folly of government depending on cigarette tax increases. Read more in the Wall Street Journal.
You will soon be hearings news that the deadline is fast approaching for signing up for Wisconsin’s first No Call List that will include cell phone numbers. In the previous legislative session, the legislature approved a bill that was signed into law allowing cell phone numbers on the popular No call List.
The state puts out a No Call List quarterly. To get on the next list that comes out October 1, 2008, cell phone users must register their numbers by August 31, 2008.
Consumers can sign up for the list free of charge by calling 1-866-9NO-CALL . They can also register at the Wisconsin No Call List Web site.
Again, as I have stated in the past, while the new law gives cell phone users the option of registering their cell phone numbers, I urge thoughtful consideration.
Federal law prohibits telemarketers from using automated dialers to call cell phones. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) advises that you may put your personal cell phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry, and now you may soon have the option to place your cell phone number on Wisconsin's No Call List. However, there is generally not a reason to do so.
Registering your cell phone is unnecessary and a very bad idea. Cell phone numbers are unpublished. If you provide your cell phone number to the national do not call list, suddenly, it becomes a published number. The lists of numbers must be purchased by telemarketers so they can comply with the do not call registry. It would be extremely easy for unscrupulous entities and foreign, international entities to get their hands on the numbers. Your best bet is to avoid registering your cell phone.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued a news release stating: "Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations prohibit telemarketers from using automated dialers to call cell phone numbers. Automated dialers are standard in the industry, so most telemarketers are barred from calling consumers on their cell phones without their consent. The national associations representing telemarketers have stated that their clients do not intend to start calling consumers' cell phones.”
I do suggest registering your residential land line number on Wisconsin's No Call List. You can sign up over the phone by calling 1-866-9NOCALL (1-866-966-2255), toll-free in Wisconsin or you can sign up at the Wisconsin No Call List website. Registration is free.
You can hear the interview here. Click on LISTEN under Hour 1, Part 2.
The audio will be available until Thursday morning at 7:00.
A constituent raised concerns to me about the state Department of Transportation’s (DOT) plans to allow auto repair shops to conduct auto emissions tests. A story about the DOT appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The Journal Sentinel has also reported that repair shops wouldn’t get paid for emissions tests under the state program. That begs the question, what incentive there would be for shops to participate? The door is opened to fraud since the shops wouldn’t be paid, the only way to make money would be to find problems with a vehicle requiring repairs that might be questionable.
Because of the constituent’s concerns, I sent a letter to the DOT Secretary:
July 23, 2008
Wisconsin Department of Transportation
Dear Secretary Busalacchi,
A constituent expresses concern to me about the July 22, 2008, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article revealing that the Department of Transportation (DOT) would allow emissions testing at car repair shops. The constituent explains that New York allows car repair shops to emissions test, and that his son lives at New York and has been complaining about the practice for years. He explains the New York practice as a disaster.
In addition the constituent explains that it is a violation of state law and common sense to allow repair shops to test.
The newspaper article reveals an appeal to the state Department of Administration has blocked final approval of the contract.
Before DOT pursues any further efforts toward testing at car repair shops, I ask that you direct a thorough research of the New York program. Information indicates that this practice may not be in the best interest of Wisconsin residents.
I look forward to your reply. If you have any questions, please contact me.
State Senator Mary Lazich
Copy: Governor James Doyle
I received the following response from Secretary Busalacchi:
August 8, 2008
The Honorable Mary Lazich
Wisconsin State Senator
State Capitol, Room 109S
Madison, WI 53707-7882
Dear Senator Lazich:
I am writing in response to your constituent’s concerns regarding a pending vehicle emissions inspection and maintenance (I/M) program transition. Your constituent had questioned the legality of using a “hybrid” I/M program – in which a network of contractor-owned stations that perform only emissions inspections (no repairs) is augmented with a network of subcontractor-owned private inspection and repair facilities (PIFs) – in Wisconsin, and had cited concerns with such a program in the state of New York.
New York’s vehicle inspection program is not a hybrid program. It is a fully decentralized program; that is, each inspection facility is privately owned and operated and all facilities provide both emissions inspection and repair. We have specifically avoided using a fully decentralized program in Wisconsin because fraud is both more common and more difficult to control than in centralized and hybrid programs.
In our planned new program, Southeastern Wisconsin’s motorists would have the option of using one of twenty-five private repair facilities to obtain their emission test; they would also have the option of continuing to visit a contractor owned emission test only facility if they prefer. The proposed changes to this program are designed to enhance the choices and convenience available to motorists.
The award of a new contract for this program is currently under review by the Wisconsin Department of Administration. During this review by DOA, it is inappropriate for the department to make specific comments regarding our legal arguments, or those of any vendor. I am, however, confident in the analysis of the department’s legal team on this matter.
If you have questions about the department’s contracting procedures, please contact Steve Martinelli in our Purchasing Office at (608) 267-4480. Questions about the existing emission inspection program may be directed to Chuck Rhodes, I/M Unit Supervisor, at (414) 266-1084.
I will be a guest on the Jay Weber program on Newstalk 1130 WISN Wednesday morning at 6:40 to discuss this issue.