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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.

Wisconsin report card: Needs improvement

Business, Taxes

On April 1, 2008, I blogged about a Competitive Wisconsin Inc. (CWI) report that used 33 measures in six categories to show Wisconsin’s ability to compete nationally continues to sag. 

The nonpartisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX) took the tables and charts from the CWI report and assigned grades to Wisconsin in all 33 benchmarks.

WISTAX reports, “Of the 33 measures, Wisconsin had four grades in the A range, 12 each in the B and C ranges, and five in the D range. The average grade over all measures was just below 2.5, or B-/C+. The two areas with the strongest grades were quality of life (averaging about a B) and workforce excellence (B- average). Low grades were given to new business creations (D+) and venture capital per worker (D), both of which suggest that future job creation could be at risk. Also disconcerting was the steady rise in energy costs (C-), once an area of decided advantage.”

Here is the entire WISTAX report.

Competition will bring down Milwaukee’s high health care costs


Milwaukee
has some of the most expensive health care in the country. The main reason, according to a new study by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI) is that there is not enough competition.

The author of the study, Linda Gorman, Ph.D. attributes the high cost to Milwaukee’s historic ties to unions. She says another factor is that health care has become consolidated, leaving less competition to keep costs lower. When competition is lacking, consumers have less alternatives. The result is more expensive health care.

How expensive is Milwaukee’s health care? The WPRI study says Milwaukee’s health care is anywhere from 27 to 55 percent higher than the national average.

State law has contributed to the increasing costs. The WPRI cites that, “Wisconsin law mandates 33 procedures  be covered by a health plan operating in the state, including regulations requiring that dentists be included in plans, and mandates that require insurers to cover contraceptives, in-vitro fertilization, prescription drugs, rehabilitation, and well-child care. Each one of these adds to the cost of a consumer’s health care and makes it more difficult for a health plan to operate in Wisconsin.”

What is the solution? Gorman says there are two remedies:

1)     There must be market-based tools, such as Health Savings Accounts.
2)     High-deductible health plans

Gorman says prices will come down when competition has consumers shopping around. She contends that high deductible policies will allow consumers to actually save over $100,000 during their 40-year work career, and even cites companies like Whole Foods, Wendy’s International Inc, and Lutheran Social Services of Illinois that have experienced success going to HSA’s and high-deductible plans.

Here is the WPRI study.

Thank you John Dillinger: the state of Wisconsin


Famed actor Johnny Depp has been in Wisconsin filming scenes for the movie, “Public Enemies.” Depp plays notorious gangster John Dillinger.

Production of the film in Wisconsin has resulted in cash into the coffers of state historical societies. Here’s the story from rivertowns.net:
   


John Dillinger appears to be working for Wisconsin

By Brian Bull, Wisconsin Public Radio

MILWAUKEE -- John Dillinger's legacy as a bank robber actually seems to be helping put money into the coffers of groups who are often looking for financial help -- the state's historical societies.

Director Michael Mann's film biography of the gangster, "Public Enemies," has relied heavily on authentic-looking locations across Wisconsin.

One of them is the former Second Ward office of First Wisconsin Bank in Milwaukee. The 95-year old building -- which now hosts the Milwaukee Historical Society -- was halfway through a five-year, $7.5 million renovation when Mann's scouts picked it as a location.

The Society's executive director, Bob Teske, says the generous location fee the crew paid was just the beginning.

"Just in terms for the two scagliola columns that surround our building we have had a pair of those repaired last year when we installed an elevator and just that one pair the work came to around $15,000," said Teske.

He says the filmmakers restored another six in preparation for filming on site, as well as a good deal of other repair work that brought the total to over $100,000.

Teske says that's money the Society didn't have to fork out, and the craftsmanship was top-notch.

Rick Bernstein of the Wisconsin Historical Society's Field Services Program adds that as long as people remember a movie, they can also remember the sites where it was filmed and visit them, something known as "heritage tourism."

"It's a form of tourism that really keys into this historic preservation ethic and people who are heritage tourists generally stay longer and spend more money than average tourists will," said Bernstein.

Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Historical Society's Bob Teske says they're trying to host the local premiere of "Public Enemies" next year, to help raise more money and publicity for their efforts.

The movie Public Enemies began filming in Columbus in March and is directed by Michael Mann of Miami Vice fame.

The movie stars Johnny Depp and is about the efforts of FBI agent Melvin Purvis to bring notorious criminals, including John Dillinger, to justice in the 1930s.

Film crews have been shooting at locations around Wisconsin including Oshkosh and in Manitowish Waters in Vilas County.

Filming in Manitowish Waters was at the Little Bohemia Lodge which was the actual location of a shootout between FBI agents and Dillinger on April 28, 1934.

Wisconsin recently enacted a film tax credit program to entice filmmakers to the state. Public Enemies is the first major film production to take advantage of the program which started in 2007.

Wisconsin case featured in national telemarketing investigation

News you can use

 

Read more

Seniors beware: There is no free lunch

News you can use


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.

Important Contacts
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.

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