Senator Kathleen Vinehout's blog

Audit to Investigate King Veterans Home

Kathleen Vinehout
Audit to Investigate King Veterans Home
by
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
“There used to be a real nice coffee shop. But they turned it into vending machines,” David Wedde told the Joint Committee on Audit.
 
To many it might seem like an insignificant thing but it was not just a coffee shop. It was a symbol of comradery at the Veterans Home in King. Everyday veterans gathered in the shop to trade stories. Now impersonal machines have replaced the shop – a victim of budget cuts.
 
Tim Michael added, “Shouldn’t be so hard to get treatment for PTSD. Why do we have a surplus when we need these things?”

How to Fund Roads: A Balancing Act

Kathleen Vinehout

How to Fund Roads: A Balancing Act

       By Senator Kathleen Vinehout

 

Funding roads is an important job for state leaders. Nine cents of every state budget dollar goes towards transportation. In the vagaries of Wisconsin state budgeting, this includes dollars the feds send Wisconsin (about forty cents of every road dollar comes from Uncle Sam).

A prudent fiscal manager must balance several factors to make wise transportation decisions. He or she must maintain our current investments, plan for future growth, pay scrupulous attention to efficiencies and quality construction, and reconcile spending with revenue.

In short, a prudent transportation budget is a balancing act.

Legislative Audit Bureau Celebrates 50 Years of Service

Kathleen Vinehout

Legislative Audit Bureau Celebrates 50 Years of Service

By Senator Kathleen Vinehout

 

“Happy Birthday!” I told eighty auditors and other legislative leaders at a recent Capitol gathering. The nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) recently celebrated 50 years of service to the people of the State of Wisconsin.

 

Who Will Be My Teacher?

Kathleen Vinehout
Who Will Be My Teacher?
by
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
“Who will be my teacher?” my son asked me years ago. For a brief point in time, the teacher was the most important person in his young life.
 
As children head back to school and parents scramble with new schedules, schools are facing their own scheduling headaches. This year a teacher shortage hit many local schools. Around the state, school districts have hundreds of vacancies.
 
Recently, I presented an overview of state education budget issues in Viroqua. At least a dozen local superintendents, school board members, principals and teachers were in the audience. Following my presentation, the conversation turned to the teacher shortage.
 
Educators described an environment in which teachers in certain high demand subject areas move from one school district to another based on the best offer.
 
Two superintendents from neighboring school districts laughed when they realized they spent the summer bidding against each other to snag the same teacher. “Now we have teachers who come back [to our school] and say, ‘I’m getting a $6,000 increase in an offer from another school.’”
 
A staff member paid a $12,000 raise creates problems in districts where teachers went seven years with little raise in pay. John, a local teacher, told the group, “The impact on morale is just horrendous.” 

Finding Help for Flooded Families and Farms

Kathleen Vinehout
By
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
“It gets overwhelming,” my neighbor told me. We were walking through her flooded barnyard. Floodwaters left silt everywhere: in the house, the garden, the barn, and the farmyard.
 
Family members were working hard to clean up. But they were filled with unanswered questions: where to go and what to do?
 
Western Wisconsin was hit with several severe rainstorms in the past few weeks. Early morning on August 11 parts of Buffalo County received 5 ½ to 11 ½ inches of rain in just 45 minutes. The beautiful rolling hills intensified the power of the water as it raced towards the lowest point.
 
Huge gullies opened up. Roads washed out. Crops were damaged. Fence lines washed away. Pastures became lakes. Cattle and pigs were lost. Concrete buckled. Trees were uprooted. Small sheds floated away. Farm machinery flooded. Flower and vegetable gardens were covered with black muck.

Where Did All that Money Go? Business Tax Credit Costs Pile Up

Kathleen Vinehout
Where Did All that Money Go? Business Tax Credit Costs Pile Up
By
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
“Where did all that money go?” Dennis asked me during a recent visit to the Jackson County Fair.
 
Dennis is one of many constituents who ask where the money for schools and roads is as our state recovers from the recession. Economic recovery means more money and more money should equal more resources for the public. Instead, state funds are very tight. For example, state aid to local public schools is less now than in 2006.
 
One reason is that the state is not collecting tax money from some large, and in several cases, very profitable companies. Recently I received a memo from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau detailing the awards given out for one large tax credit known as the Enterprise Zone Tax Credit. This credit – originally conceived to help rural communities – has morphed into large credits for single companies.
 
The memo contained a list of the total awards made and the companies that received them:
 
Amazon.com                                      $10.3 million
Bucyrus International, Inc.                     $20.0 million
Direct Supply                                   $22.5 million
Dollar General Corporation                      $ 5.5 million
Exact Sciences Corporation                      $ 9.0 million
Fincantieri Marine Group, LLC                   $28.0 million
InSinkErator                                    $15.5 million
Kestrel Aircraft Company, Inc.                  $18.0 million
Kohl’s Corporation                              $62.5 million
Mercury Marine                                  $65.0 million
MKE Electric Tool Corporation                   $18.0 million
Northstar Med. Radioisotopes, LLC               $14.0 million
Oshkosh Corporation                             $47.0 million
Plexus Corporation                              $15.0 million
Quad/Graphics, Inc.                             $61.7 million
Trane US Incorporated                           $ 5.5 million
Uline, Incorporated                             $18.6 million
W Solar Group, Incorporated                     $28.0 million
Weather Shield Mfg, Incorporated                $ 8.0 million
 
TOTAL (through Aug. 1, 2016)                $472.1 million
 

Have an Opinion about Your Internet Connection? Let Your Voice be Heard!

Kathleen Vinehout
Editor's Note - I am one of the people in the state who is blessed with a great Internet connection by virtue of belonging to a phone co-op that has invested in infrastructure. My rural farm house has fiber connection for phone, tv, and internet. Most are not so blessed. Let your voice be heard, and fill us in in the comment section about your own internet experience.
Have an Opinion about Your Internet Connection? Let Your Voice be Heard!
by
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
Do you have a great Internet connection? Less than what you’d prefer? Makes it impossible for you to do your work or your children’s homework? No service at all?
 
Make your opinion known!
 
The state is taking a survey of how Wisconsinites connect to the Internet. The survey is free – and ironically – available online. Those without Internet – or such a slow connection they cannot fill out a survey – can let their voice be heard by calling the following toll-free phone number - (877) 360-2973.
 
Home connections and businesses are measured in separate surveys. You can reach the residential survey here: https://www.research.net/r/WI_PSC_broadband_survey
Businesses can voice their opinion here: https://www.research.net/r/WI_PSC_business_broadband_survey
 

UWEC and Local Business: A Flourishing Relationship Worthy of Investment

Kathleen Vinehout

UWEC and Local Business: A Flourishing Relationship Worthy of Investment

By

Senator Kathleen Vinehout

“One hundred years ago the Chamber rented a rail car to go down to Madison,” President Bob McCoy of the Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce told the gathering of business leaders. A century ago, Chamber members traveled to Madison to advocate for a new UW campus in Eau Claire.

Government Accountability Died the End of June

Kathleen Vinehout
Government Accountability Died the End of June
by
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
Government Accountability passed in a quiet death the last day of June.
 
There was no fanfare, no long speeches – just hard working employees packing up personal items.
 
I imagined the nonpartisan judges of the Government Accountability Board (GAB) breathed a deep sigh as they left their service on the GAB and ended the rough and tumble ordeal as broad members.
 
All the fanfare, public speeches and hyper-partisan rhetoric happened last winter in what GAB board member, Judge Thomas Barland, called a “public lynching”.
 
Judge Barland is a former Circuit Court Judge for Eau Claire and Trempealeau counties. As a GAB board member, he oversaw government accountability in Wisconsin. Earlier this year he retired from the GAB.
 
For over thirty years, he served as a nonpartisan judge. Ironically, given the partisan focus of destroying the GAB, Judge Barland served as a Republican State Representative from 1961 to 1967.
 
Following an interview with Judge Barland, Chippewa Valley Herald Associate Editor David Gordon wrote, Barland said his ‘public lynching’ comment referred both to the recurrent attacks on the GAB by members of the Republican majority in the Legislature, and to the actual destruction of the Board.”

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