Legislative Bulletin, Jan. 5, 2011
At 12:01 a.m. on Monday of this week Scott Walker became Wisconsin’s 45th Governor. In his speech, Gov. Walker made five promises: to create jobs, to protect vital natural resources, to improve Wisconsin’s education system, to honor and respect the role of family, and to “right-size” state government, and calling on state workers to “partner with him in this necessary work.”
He spoke of the deficit, and he planned to tackle the deficit without raiding segregated funds, borrowing or increasing taxes. “…we will make tough, but compassionate decisions to balance the state budget...under our administration, state government will do only what is necessary –no more, no less.”
Later that day, Gov. Walker issued an Executive Order calling for a Special Session of the state Legislature to pass several bills that proponents claim would stimulate business development. Those bills include:
1. Creating a state authority to be known as the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, a public-private body that would eventually replace the Wisconsin Department of Commerce.
2. Tax credits for small businesses and for new businesses.
3. Tax break for health savings accounts (HSAs).
4. Requiring a ‘supermajority’ vote for passage of legislation that would increase any tax.
5. Requiring gubernatorial approval of all proposed agency administrative rules.
6. Tort reform.
Some of these bills are available in draft form and can be found on www.thewheelerreport.com. Each of these bills is controversial and each has far-reaching consequences. AFSCME is reviewing the bills. We and the labor community will assess whether or not these bills will create good paying jobs, if the bills help working families, and whether they improve or harm the revenues that support vital public services, which would further constrain state and local budgets.
Legislative Logistics will Determine When the Special Session is Held
It is not clear when the Assembly and Senate will respond to Gov. Walker’s Special Session call and act on the requested legislation. The Assembly is conducting orientation and training for 30 new legislators and their staff, and is not likely to meet until after this takes place. The Senate, with more seasoned veterans, may take quicker action on the measures. There is likely to be a public hearing on the bills, as is the legislative custom, but no dates have been set at this writing.
Gov. Walker Issues an Executive Order Creating the “Governor’s Commission on Waste, Fraud and Abuse”
Also this week Gov. Walker established commissions to carry out an in-depth review of programs that he asserts have “gone largely unchecked during the last eight years”. The order cites eight specific programs, including four that directly affect AFSCME members:
• $66.5 million in overtime wages, with 25 state workers earning more than $50,000 in overtime.
• Fraudulent payments made under the Wisconsin Shares child care program.
• Fraudulent unemployment claims.
• A decline in fraud investigations in the state’s food stamp program, FoodShare, at a time when enrollment doubled.
The other four programs cited as waste and fraud involve IT and computer contracts that have not produced expected results but which have cost taxpayers millions.
The Executive Order authorizes the Governor to appoint three members, including the Secretary of the state Department of Administration, or his designee, and one member representing private employers in the state, as well as four legislative members, one from each party and from each house of the Legislature, for a total of seven members. The chairperson shall be the private employer representative.
The Order requires the Commission to report its findings to the Governor and Legislature on July 1, 2011 and on January 1, 2012. For more information on the Executive Order, go to www.thewheelerreport.com.
For more information, contact the AFSCME lobbyists at 608-836-6666.