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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.

Is a softball title next for NB Eisenhower?

I certainly hope so.

The school has already won the Division 2 state boy’s basketball championship this year.

Today, New Berlin Eisenhower plays in the WIAA Division 2 Girl's State Softball Tournament Title game.

I wish the Lions the best of luck!

World experts blame ethanol for food crisis

Ethanol


A blog I wrote during February 2007 about the effects of ethanol mentioned the impact on food with emphasis on Mexico. It read, in part:

Excitement over ethanol, a renewable fuel made with corn, has reached such a high level that there has been a virtual rush on corn. The effects have been devastating, especially in Mexico with a society, culture, and way of life dominated by the tortilla. Tortillas make up 40 percent of the diet for poor Mexicans, and with corn prices quadrupling in Mexico since last summer, Mexico is suffering through its worst tortilla crisis.

Exorbitant tortilla costs created by the buzz about ethanol have left few alternatives in Mexico. Mexicans who can afford food are bypassing tortillas for options that are less healthy, so they are gaining weight. The poor are eating less, eating less healthy, or going hungry.

There are many concerns about ethanol, its effect on world hunger being the latest. Ethanol has been known to wreak havoc on small engines, and now it is likely to wreak havoc on the food supply.”

Surely there were some who read that column and dismissed the conclusion. I doubt that’s the case today.

This is no longer a Mexican tortilla problem. Food supply epidemics have reached global proportions. The latest Agricultural Outlook from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization
, unveiled in late May in Paris has the grim details about escalating prices:

“Using data for February 2008 compared to February 2007, milk product prices have generally risen sharply, as shown by those for butter with price increases of 50% in Poland, 40% in France, 36% in Spain, 32% in the Czech Republic, about 36% in Jordan and some 12% in Malaysia. Egg prices have also risen sharply, by 34% in the US, 30% in the UK and the Czech Republic and 10% in Spain. Vegetable oil prices rose 18% in India and 47% in Botswana in the past year. Meat prices rose sharply in some countries such as China, where the increase was 45%.”

Sixteen months ago I pointed the finger at ethanol. Recently in Paris, world food experts did the same. OECD agriculture official Loek Boonekamp, according to the Washington Post, says about 33 percent of the projected increase in food prices over the next 10 years can be attributed to biofuels. Boonekamp also called the benefits of converting food into fuel, “probably smaller than commonly expected."

An OECD press release says growing demand for biofuels is leading to higher food prices, reporting “World fuel ethanol production tripled between 2000 and 2007 and is expected to double again between now and 2017 to reach 127 billion liters a year. Biodiesel production is seen to expand from 11 billion liters a year in 2007 to around 24 billion liters by 2017. The growth in biofuel production adds to demand for grains, oilseeds and sugar, so contributing to higher crop prices.”

The prognosis for the future of food prices from the OECD is bleak:

“Commodity prices will average substantially above the levels that prevailed in the past 10 years. When the average for 2008 to 2017 is compared with that over 1998 to 2007, beef and pork prices may be some 20% higher; raw and white sugar around 30%; wheat, maize and skim milk powder 40 to 60%; butter and oilseeds more than 60% and vegetable oils over 80%.

The poor, and in particular the urban poor in net food importing developing countries, will suffer more. In many low-income countries, food expenditures average over 50% of income and the higher prices will push more people into undernourishment.”

The report predicts more violent outbreaks and riots over food shortages that have already been reported in some countries.

The OECD recommends further review of existing biofuel policies. The suggestion comes as some members of Congress are requesting a relaxation of a requirement that 9 billion gallons of renewable fuels be produced in 2009, up from 6.5 billion last year. How widespread does the world’s food crisis have to get before we put the brakes on converting our food supply into fuel?

Is this really good news?

Taxes

The headline in the Wisconsin State Journal (WSJ) sure sounds good:

“Wisconsin falls from ranks of top 10 highest-taxed states for first time since 1980”

According to the University of Wisconsin and the non-partisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX), this would be only the second time since 1969 Wisconsin has not been in the top ten in taxes nationwide.

The researchers looked at data from 2006, the latest year that data was available.

How did this happen?

As the WSJ reports, “Wisconsin's taxes actually rose slightly in the fiscal year ended in June 2006 but those of other states rose more quickly.”

Translation: You’re still paying high taxes, Wisconsin, and they’re not going down.

I have written that state and local governments take a good-sized portion of your income. The painful trend continues.

According to the WSJ, “All state and local taxes amounted to $22.3 billion, or 12.3 percent of personal income in Wisconsin in 2006. That was up slightly from the previous year, when taxes accounted for 12.1 percent of personal income. The national average in 2006 for state and local taxes was 11.6 percent of personal income.”

Remember, the Legislature approved and Governor Doyle signed into law the 2007- 2009 state budget that increased taxes and fees by $763 million. I voted against the budget because it taxes and spends too much and beyond the rate of inflation. Shortly after the general legislative session ended mid-March, the state learned it had a budget revenue shortfall of $652.3 million. The amount of incoming revenue was not enough to fund committed spending.

Wisconsin also has a structural deficit of over $1.6 billion. A structural deficit occurs when future projected revenues fail to match future expenses.  It is clear Wisconsin has yet to solve the propensity to tax and spend.

If you listen to the positive spin coming out of Governor Doyle’s office, the good news is Wisconsin is trending in the right direction. I would hold that thought until we see the impact of the spending and borrowing in the most recent budget, and in the bill referred to as the budget repair bill.

Here is the WSJ article.

Here’s a report from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance.

Constituents speak out at town hall meetings


I have completed a series of town hall meetings in state Senate District 28 in the communities that I represent: New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Greenfield, Hales Corners, Big Bend, Muskego, Mukwonago, Waterford, East Troy, and Waukesha.

Constituents attending came armed with a variety of questions and topics they wanted to discuss. There were, however, specific issues residents of Senate District 28 consistently raised at virtually every town hall meeting. The consensus was these are top-of-mind, high priority, hot button items.

Let’s begin with the hands down number one concern. It usually began with a comment like, “Isn’t there something this state can do?” or, “Why can’t the Legislature and the governor just say no?”

Frustrated citizens cannot understand why, at a time of layoffs, shaky job security, home foreclosures, shrinking incomes, rising gas and food prices and state budget deficits that state government time and time again opts to increase taxing and spending.  Citizens are making tough choices to adapt to difficult economic times and fully expect government to follow suit. Instead, state government taxes and spends even more.

The message at the town hall meetings was evident: enough is enough. I am pleased to report that I have kept my pledge and refused to vote for any tax increase. I also oppose and voted against the state budget and budget repair bill that increased spending.

Town hall attendees also made it abundantly clear they want a photo ID requirement for voting in Wisconsin. Support for the measure is overwhelming, and again, residents are dumbfounded as to why such a popular idea has been impossible to achieve.

Governor Doyle vetoed photo ID three times.  During the legislative session, Democrats controlling the state Senate refused to bring a constitutional amendment requiring photo ID to the Senate floor for a vote, killing the measure. Had the amendment been put to voters in a statewide referendum, the margin of victory would likely have been substantial.

Residents attending the town hall meetings and that have contacted me are well aware of what transpired in Madison this past session and they are angry. I wish the governor and every Senate Democrat that obstructed the will of the people on photo ID would have been at the town hall meetings to hear how passionate voters are on this issue.

The “E” word also elicits great emotion: ethanol. The consensus, and I concur, is that there are far too many problems associated with ethanol, and with gas prices skyrocketing, there is growing opposition to ethanol mandates.

I was one of several legislators to sign a letter sent to Wisconsin’s Congressional Delegation, requesting they take action to ease the cost of gas for consumers. The letter asks for a repeal of the federal renewable fuel mandate, the elimination of tax credits for ethanol production, and the lifting of the reformulated gas (RFG) mandate in six southeast Wisconsin counties.

I wish to thank everyone that attended the town hall meetings. It is great to meet constituents face to face and hear what’s on their minds. I also thank community officials for allowing me the use of government facilities, libraries and a local business to host the town hall meetings.

Happy 160th Wisconsin!

This week, the state of Wisconsin celebrated a milestone.

From the Wisconsin Historical Society website:

On This Day: May 29, 1848 - Wisconsin Enters the Union
On this date Wisconsin became the 30th state to enter the Union with an area of 56,154 square miles, comprising 1/56 of the United States at the time. Its nickname, the "Badger State," was not in reference to the fierce animal but miners who spent their winters in the state, living in dugouts and burrowing much like a badger. [Source: "B" Book I, Beer Bottles, Brawls, Boards, Brothels, Bibles, Battles & Brownstone by Tony Woiak, pg. 37]

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