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.
The state Senate Committee on Education that I serve on held a public hearing on a bill that requires that every school board’s instructional program in state, national, and world history include information on the history of organized labor in America and the collective bargaining process.
I am deeply concerned about the prospect of the state mandating this type of instruction. What’s next? Requiring instruction on the birth of the Republican Party in Wisconsin and how important the Party is to American politics?
The Green Bay Press Gazette shares my concerns. The newspaper editorializes:
“We're troubled by legislation that seeks to mandate curriculum. The same argument for mandating the teaching of the labor movement could be used to promote the history of agriculture, forestry, tourism and papermaking. And so on. There are any number of special interests that can convincingly present the case for the role they've played in the history of Wisconsin.”
Here’s the entire editorial.
This week, the state Senate approved for the second time a constitutional amendment to do away with the Frankenstein veto power of Wisconsin governors. Voters will get to decide on the issue in a statewide referendum April 1, 2008.
Another related constitutional amendment cleared its first hurdle this week when the state Assembly approved Assembly Joint Resolution 34 (AJR 34) on a vote of 91-6.
AJR 34 would prohibit state lawmakers from raiding segregated funds to fill budget holes and prevent funds from being used outside their original intent.
Here is an analysis of AJR 34 from the Legislative Reference Bureau:
“This proposed constitutional amendment, proposed to the 2007 legislature on first consideration, permits the creation of a state fund, or program revenue appropriation account thereof, other than a fund or account related solely to the issuance or payment of public debt or other obligation, only if two−thirds of all the members elected to each house concur therein.
Any state fund, or program revenue appropriation account thereof, created by law before, on, or after the date of ratification of this amendment remains in effect until abolished by law, and the purpose for which the fund or account was created may not be changed by law.
The proposal also provides that a state fund, or program revenue appropriation account thereof, created before, on, or after the date of ratification of this amendment may not be lapsed, transferred, or expended in any manner that would conflict with the purpose of the fund or account. If a state fund, or program revenue appropriation account thereof, is abolished, all unencumbered moneys in the fund or account as of the date the fund or account is abolished are transferred to the general fund of the state.”
After the 2005-07 state budget was approved by the Legislature, Governor Doyle partially vetoed 752 words out of a large section of the budget to create a 20-word sentence. The result was a raid of $427-million from the Transportation Fund to pay for schools, an appropriation the Legislature never authorized.
The 2007-09 state budget transfers $200 million from the state's Patient Compensation Fund to the general fund. The Wisconsin Medical Society is now suing the state because of the raid that could be illegal.
This is the first consideration of AJR 34. The amendment must still pass the state Senate in this legislative session, then be approved by both houses of the Legislature in the next legislative session before going to voters in a statewide referendum.
When citizens pay a tax or fee designated for a specific purpose, they expect the funds will be used in that manner. The use of funds for other programs or services other than those the funding was intended for is a serious breach of faith and trust with the public. These raids are wrong and must be stopped.
I support AJR 34 and will vote in favor of the amendment if it is scheduled for action in the state Senate.
Remember “Healthy Wisconsin,” the Senate Democrats’ incredibly expensive government health care plan proposed in the state budget? The plan became the target of national ridicule.
In an editorial in July titled, “Cheese Headcases,” the Wall Street Journal wrote:
“Wow, is "free" health care expensive. The plan would cost an estimated $15.2 billion, or $3 billion more than the state currently collects in all income, sales and corporate income taxes. It represents an average of $510 a month in higher taxes for every Wisconsin worker.
Employees and businesses would pay for the plan by sharing the cost of a new 14.5% employment tax on wages. Wisconsin businesses would have to compete with out-of-state businesses and foreign rivals while shouldering a 29.8% combined federal-state payroll tax, nearly double the 15.3% payroll tax paid by non-Wisconsin firms for Social Security and Medicare combined.
This employment tax is on top of the $1 billion grab bag of other levies that Democratic Governor Jim Doyle proposed and the tax-happy Senate has also approved, including a $1.25 a pack increase in the cigarette tax, a 10% hike in the corporate tax, and new fees on cars, trucks, hospitals, real estate transactions, oil companies and dry cleaners. In all, the tax burden in the Badger State could rise to 20% of family income, which is slightly more than the average federal tax burden.
As if that's not enough, the health plan includes a tax escalator clause allowing an additional 1.5 percentage point payroll tax to finance higher outlays in the future. This could bring the payroll tax to 16%.”
The plan did not make its way into the final state budget. But Senate Democrats aren’t giving up on their plan to mandate government health care. Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker told the Wausau Daily Herald that their government health care plan will be re-introduced early next year.
According to the Wausau Daily Herald, “The plan would group employer-sponsored health insurance into one pool, thereby spreading risk among a larger population and lowering costs for employers and workers alike. Those who are self-employed would be able to buy in as well. The plan would be funded through a $15 billion payroll tax.”
That’s not all.
Senator Decker also told the newspaper that Senate Democrats will introduce a measure exempting the first $60,000 of a home's value from local school taxes.
The Daily Herald reports, “That would ease the burden on low- and middle-income folks but bring less money to school districts. To make up for the loss, tax rates on home values above $60,000 would be raised -- a rate that also would apply to commercial and industrial properties. For example, the owner of a $150,000 home would pay no taxes on the first $60,000 of the home's value, but a higher rate on the remaining $90,000 of value.”
That could result in a huge tax increase for Wisconsin homeowners who already pay some of the highest, if not the highest property taxes in the nation.
The Senate Democrats see government spending, tax increases, and government mandates as the solution to every problem. It appears their goal is to see the day that Wisconsin ranks number 1 in all forms of taxes. We must do everything possible to make sure that does not happen.
An amendment to Senate Bill 86 provides that if an Audit Bureau employee investigates a report, the employee may consult with a state agency. The amendment also provides that instead of requiring a bureau employee to investigate a report, the bureau may refer a report to a state agency for investigation. In the case of the Audit Bureau referring a report to a state agency for investigation, the agency must conduct the investigation and deliver the results of the process to the Audit Bureau in a timely manner.
I am a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 86 that would allow citizens to alert the state to improprieties in state government and help the state operate more efficiently.
Wisconsin ranks as the fifth largest Christmas tree producer in the country, selling 1.8 million trees every year. We also are the third largest state nationally for acreage of Christmas trees grown.
Finding a Christmas tree farm to purchase a fresh tree is easy. There are 1,387 Christmas tree farms in the state selling any number of varieties of trees.
University of Wisconsin-Extension Racine County horticulture educator Patti Nagai says each acre of trees produces enough oxygen for 18 people. For very tree chopped down, two or three more are planted. The trees are recyclable and when chipped or shredded make great mulch. So Christmas trees are good for the environment.
For more information, check out the Wisconsin Christmas Tree Growers Association.