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.
We are learning more about Governor Doyle’s plan to fix the massive state budget revenue shortfall.
The governor wants to impose a hospital tax. He also wants to raid the Transportation Fund of $243 million and transfer it to the General Fund.
The Wisconsin State Journal reports another element of the governor’s fix is to use payments that are part of a settlement with tobacco companies. The newspaper reports that part of the governor’s plan will cost the state $94 million.
If you think this sounds familiar, you are right.
The Wisconsin State Journal correctly points out that Governor Doyle’s predecessor, Governor Scott McCallum borrowed against future payments by the tobacco companies to balance the state budget in 2001 and 2002. Governor Doyle, the Attorney general at the time, criticized McCallum. Now it seems Governor Doyle is resorting to the same tactic.
The Wisconsin State Journal reports:
“As attorney general, Doyle helped win a settlement with tobacco companies over the costs of smoking. The settlement called for yearly payments from the companies to the state in perpetuity.
Under a plan authorized by lawmakers and McCallum, the state in 2002 borrowed against that future stream of tobacco company money, receiving $1.6 billion upfront and diverting the annual payments — potentially worth more than $5 billion — to pay off the loans, the so-called tobacco bonds. McCallum, a Republican, originally called for using part of the $1.6 billion to fight the effects of tobacco use, but in the end, it all went to plug a state budget hole.
Doyle now wants to refinance those loans, receiving a lower interest rate and extending the payments, to free up $68 million a year for the state through 2020 that could be used to balance the budget and cover health-care costs.
The cost to taxpayers comes because Doyle's plan would delay by a decade the time it takes the state to pay off its debt on the tobacco bonds and start receiving the hundreds of millions of dollars in tobacco company payments free and clear.
Currently, the state is expected to pay off those bonds by 2017. But under the Doyle plan, the state wouldn't pay them off until 2027, according to the analysis by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.
Over the next two decades, that delay in receiving payments from the tobacco companies will cost the state $94 million in today's dollars, the (Legislative) Fiscal Bureau report found.”
Here is the entire Wisconsin State Journal article.
Last month, I warned about a rebate scam. Phone calls and e-mails claiming to be from the IRS are asking unsuspecting individuals to confirm private financial information so that refunds and the new rebate can be deposited directly into their accounts.
Those scams continue.
The Baraboo News Republic reports:
“Crooks send e-mails that appear to be from the IRS telling taxpayers they must fill out a form on the Internet before collecting their money. The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers electronically and doesn't ask for personal information over the internet.
A new scheme tries to get taxpayers to reveal personal information before obtaining their economic stimulus payment. That payment goes out automatically to anyone who files a tax return.
The IRS says taxpayers this year have forwarded the agency 33,000 "phishing" scam e-mails reflecting more than 1,500 different schemes.”
Anyone that receives a fake e-mail should not open any links and should forward the message to email@example.com.
Here is the Baraboo News Republic story.
During the legislative session that ended last week, I opposed Senate Bill 232, legislation that would have forced all licensed Wisconsin pharmacists, regardless of their medical and moral judgment, to dispense the morning-after pill and other FDA-approved contraceptive drugs that cause abortions.
Pharmacists would have been required to set aside their moral and medical concerns about birth control and be subservient to the birth control industry. Pharmacists who refuse to give birth control to female customers do so because they are concerned about their patients’ health. Forcing pharmacists to act against their conscience would lead many to leave the profession.
Thankfully, Senate Bill 232 failed in the legislative session.
The issue has now become controversial in the neighboring state of Illinois.
A group of pharmacists is asking the Illinois Supreme Court to toss out a rule that forces them to dispense emergency contraception despite moral objections. Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich imposed the rule in 2005 that stipulates pharmacists cannot turn away women who request emergency contraception.
The case is being watched closely by other states, like Wisconsin, that have similar concerns.
Here is the story. (UPDATED)
It began this past Sunday when the NCAA announced its 65-team men’s basketball tournament and will continue until a champion is crowned Monday, April 7.
March Madness captures the imagination of the country for 22 days. Fans and non-fans watch the games, talk about the games, plan their schedules around the games, and they bet on the games.
"It is by far the biggest gambling event of the year," Victor Matheson, an expert on sports economics at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts told the Dallas Morning News.
The newspaper also reports that as many as 37 million people are expected to participate in the wagering, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a job counseling firm in Chicago.
The overwhelming majority of March Madness gamblers are involved in small pools with co-workers and friends. A small percentage partakes in high roller stakes that can be very risky.
"We are aware of pools that can get up to $100,000," NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said.
The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) says, “Two to three percent of the US population will have a gambling problem in any given year. That’s 6 million to 9 million Americans yet only a small fraction seeks out services, such as treatment and self-help recovery programs.”
The temptation grows as March Madness erupts, a sporting event that eclipses the popularity of the Super Bowl because it runs for three weeks as opposed to three hours. As such, it lures in more gamblers.
The Executive Director of the Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling Rose Gruber says March tends to be a record-setting month for people calling in to the Council’s helpline seeking assistance for addictive gambling.
The NCPG has compiled a list of questions about the signs of problem gambling. It says if you or someone you know answers yes to any of the following questions, it is likely that gambling has become a serious problem:
1) Have you gambled until your last dollar is gone?
2) Have you often gambled longer than you had planned?
3) Have you lied about your gambling to friends or family?
4) Have you used your income or savings to gamble while letting bills go unpaid?
5) Have you made repeated attempts to stop gambling?
6) Have you broken the law or considered breaking the law to get money to gamble?
7) Have you borrowed money to finance your gambling?
8) Have you felt depressed or suicidal because of your gambling losses?
9) Have you been remorseful after gambling?
10) Have you gambled to try to get money to meet your financial obligations?
The NCPG says problem gambling has serious consequences:
• Trust is often the first casualty in the family of the problem gambler. Change in the behavior of the family member is often attributed to many other possible problems before gambling is identified as the problem.
• Respect for the problem gambler is generally lost once this problem has been identified. “Why can’t you just stop so the problem will go away?”“You can fix this!” When the gambler can’t, respect for them is lost.
• Relationships are built on trust and respect. Without these, family relationships will be weakened or destroyed.
• Family Dynamic is dependent on each family member meeting the needs of the others. Problem gambling can destroy the ability of the gambler to do this.
• Employment can be affected in various ways. The gambler will often neglect responsibilities at work and/or develop an attendance problem asthey begin to have less control over their need to gamble. In the worst situation, the gambler will steal from their employer in order to continue their gambling. Any of this can lead to loss of employment and prosecution.
• Financial security for the family is often lost as the gambler seeks more and more resources with which to gamble. All of the family’s financial resources may be liquidated without their knowledge. Savings, home equity, retirement accounts, children’s savings, etc may all be lost or damaged.
• Reputations are difficult to protect as the gambling problem affects more and more aspects of the gambler’s life and become known by individuals outside of the family.
• Domestic violence may result in a family affected by a member with an addiction problem. The family of a problem gambler can be impacted just as easily as that of someone with an alcohol or drug addiction. The problem gambler may be the victim or perpetrator.
• Co-occurring disorders such as depression, substance abuse, and other compulsive behaviors often occur as a result of or along with the gambling problem. • Children of problem gamblers have a higher probability of developing a gambling problem than those with parents who do not gamble. This follows the pattern as experienced by children of those affected by substance and domestic violence.
If you have questions, need help, or know someone who does, you can call the Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-GAMBLE-5 or the National Council on Problem Gambling at 1-800-522-4700.
I was interviewed for an article about the competition for water that appears in the March issue of the National Conference of State Legislatures’ magazine, “State Legislatures.”
The article, entitled, “Hot Water,” discusses the Great Lakes Compact:
Supporters of the Great Lakes Water Resources Compact note that it still needs to be ratified by the legislatures of six more states and that the going may not be entirely smooth. In Wisconsin, Senator Mary Lazich says she has concerns that the effect of the compact may be additional bureaucracy. “I think it has the potential to be make-work for the government and private sector attorneys who will be involved in defining all of this down the road,” says Lazich.
But even with such reservations, Lazich acknowledges that momentum is in the compact’s favor, and for a compelling reason. “All of us are reading about the water issues across the country and it makes us even more determined to preserve our Great Lakes. We want to see the language of the compact tweaked a little, but ultimately the only thing that matters is making sure that nothing detrimental happens to the lakes.”
Here is the entire article.