Saturday August 18, 2018

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Democratic Radio "Just Fix It"

Posted by Jennifer Shilling, State Senator Dist 32 (B)
Jennifer Shilling, State Senator Dist 32 (B)
Jennifer Shilling lives in La Crosse with her husband and two children. She curr
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on Thursday, 26 July 2018
in Wisconsin

road-constructionCrumbling roads, deteriorating highways and structurally unsafe bridges have created headaches for Wisconsin drivers.


MADISON, WI – Senator Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) offered the weekly Democratic radio address today.

The audio file of this week’s address can be found here.

A written transcript of the address is below:

jennifer-shilling“Hi, I’m State Senator Jennifer Shilling with this week’s Democratic Radio Address.

“As the summer travel season continues, so have the headaches for Wisconsin drivers.

“Crumbling roads, deteriorating highways and structurally unsafe bridges have created a dangerous situation.

“After eight years of Republican budgeting, Wisconsin has over 2,800 bridges that need repairs and our roads are among the worst in the nation.

“Even the Republican chair of the state’s budget committee admitted that “The roads in Illinois are better than in Wisconsin.”

“Rather than delaying projects and laying off workers, Democrats are pushing to prioritize community safety and expand economic opportunities across our state.

“We’re proud to stand with the overwhelming majority of Wisconsin workers, families and businesses who want a responsible, long-term funding solution to repair our crumbling roads and improve transportation safety.

“If you’ve noticed how bad our roads have become, then you know it’s time to #JustFixIt and build toward a brighter future.

“Thank you.”

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Kimberly-Clark Bailout Plan Questioned

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
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on Thursday, 26 July 2018
in Wisconsin

kc-layoff-wbayAfter management wrestles $20,000 pay cuts from workers, Green Bay's Senator Dave Hansen doubts company's sincerity in fulfilling their part of the $115 million bailout deal.


GREEN BAY, WI - Back in January, Kimberly-Clark Corporation (KC) of Neenah announced it was considering closing two manufacturing facilities in the Fox Valley. These included the Neenah Nonwovens Facility, within the next 18 months, and the Cold Spring Facility in Fox Crossing after consultation and negotiation with the plant's labor stakeholders.

According to Kimberly-Clark, the whole thing would result in at least 600 people being cut around here. Given the $4.5 billion state incentive package then being heaped upon Foxconn, local politicians quickly asked for something to be done in Madison to save these jobs.

The Assembly passed a tax break package for KC 56-37 in February and sent it to the state Senate where it stalled. Many in the Senate balked at the cost. The tax credit on jobs alone would cost the state between $100 million and $115 million over the 15 years, or over $191,000 per job saved, and the company itself was noncommittal on whether the tax breaks would even entice them to reverse their decision.

After it ratified a new labor agreement Monday night with it's labor stakeholders (United Steelworkers), KC now says it would consider the tax incentives to keep Fox Crossing plant open. Unfortunately, union sources say the new pact would cut workers pay by more than $20,000 per person.

dave-hansen-gb“While I am pleased to hear that there is an opportunity to avoid the closure of Kimberly-Clark’s Cold Spring and Neenah Nonwovens facilities I still have serious concerns," says Green Bay Sen. Dave Hansen in a statement released Wednesday. “At a time when there is a worker shortage and the Legislature is offering over $100 million to Kimberly-Clark to keep the mills open it is deeply disappointing that K-C’s precondition for accepting such a generous offer from the taxpayers is to force their workers to accept deep cuts to their pay and benefits."

Hansen, at least, is one senator who still doubts KC's sincerity in fulfilling their part of the bailout deal.

“Under the bill introduced earlier by Senator Roth," (Sen. Roger Roth, R-Appleton) "there is no guarantee in place for how long the mills will stay open and Kimberly-Clark could lay off as much as 7% of their workers and still receive the taxpayer funded subsidies," said Hansen. "Nor are there any protections for workers at K-C’s mill in Marinette."

The Green Bay Senator also feels the Roth bill falls short in that it fails to address challenges faced by the state’s paper industry as a whole.

“When the deal with Foxconn was voted on I joined a number of my Democratic colleagues warning that Republicans and the Governor were opening the door for other businesses to ask for similar treatment," Hansen concludes. "If this Foxconn-style bailout is approved for Kimberly-Clark how many more businesses will be stepping forward looking for a handout from the taxpayers?”

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Federal and State Decisions Affect Health Insurance Premiums for Wisconsinites

Posted by Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout of Alma is an educator, business woman, and farmer who is now
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on Wednesday, 25 July 2018
in Wisconsin

affordablecareCandidate for Governor Kathleen Vinehout argues the state should enact her Badger Health Benefit Marketplace legislation after state and federal actions impact health insurance premiums for Wisconsinites.


MADISON - Recent news on the health front should give Wisconsinites pause when considering the direction our state is headed related to affordable health coverage.

Earlier this year, the Governor signed Special Session bills into law that limit access to needed healthcare. For example, one provision of the new law will essentially require cash strapped farmers to sell their cows or essential farm equipment to obtain BadgerCare. Another example is a provision that will set in place outside work requirements for caregivers (who already have a full-time, non-paying job) but rely on BadgerCare.

For the state to enforce these new provisions, the federal government, through a waiver process, must grant approval. The state filed its waiver request, which is pending approval by the Trump administration. However, a recent federal court ruling stopped similar plans in Kentucky. The legal wrangling leaves uncertainty for the Governor who hopes to save costs by eliminating BadgerCare coverage for some Wisconsinites.

healthcare-family-drThose who may lose BadgerCare cannot afford commercial policies. Folks without insurance often delay needed care, end up sicker, and seek care in the Emergency Room. Those without insurance frequently cannot pay for care even though hospitals are required to provide it. To make ends meet, hospitals raise rates for everyone else. Thus, more uninsured folks mean higher costs for all of us.

A recent poll, reported last week in The Hill, found 49% of those surveyed said it is more difficult to afford health insurance premiums, doctor visits and prescription drugs this year, compared to last year. In addition, almost 80% of respondents believe the government should be doing more to make health care more affordable.

However, action at the federal level is making health care less affordable.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) pegged the GOP repeal of Affordable Care Act (ACA) individual mandate as accounting for an average ten-percent rise in insurance premiums next year.

The Trump administration abruptly stopped payments under the ACA to help even-out costs faced by health plans. The payments are made to plans that incur high costs from unusually sick patients. The idea behind the policy is similar to the basic idea of insurance – sharing the costs by sharing the risk. The interruption of “risk adjustment” funds brings higher premiums as some health plans face higher than expected medical bills.

Federal officials also announced they were cutting funds for navigators, or outreach nonprofits that help people sign up for health coverage under the ACA. Less money for this important work means less people covered – and fewer people in the pool results in higher costs for the rest of us.

Last month the Trump administration announced it would stop defending the ACA from a constitutional challenge that could affect protections for people with pre-existing conditions. This decision has significant implications for folks in our state. Kaiser Health News reported last week that residents in GOP-led states opposed to the ACA have the most to lose if pre-existing conditions are not protected.

Wisconsin and Texas led the list of twenty governors and state attorneys general that filed a challenge to the constitutionality of the ACA in court last February.

The new Kaiser Family Foundation study estimated at least one in four Wisconsinites under age 65 have one or more pre-existing conditions that could cause them to be denied health coverage, or have a condition excluded from coverage or would be forced to pay exorbitant rates to keep coverage. These conditions could include anything from acne to migraines to pregnancy.

Just living to age sixty means one has a pre-existing condition. Not surprisingly, the study reported data from 2008, which was prior to enactment of the ACA, those of ages 60-64 were most likely to experience insurance denials based on pre-existing conditions.

kathleen-vinehoutOne answer to rising health costs is to create our own health care marketplace. I authored the Badger Health Benefit Marketplace and introduced it as Senate Bill 359. This uniquely Wisconsin marketplace provides lower cost insurance to owners and employees of small businesses and those who buy insurance on their own.

While Wisconsin rates for individual insurance went up an average of 38% in 2018 over 2017, a system similar in Minnesota dropped costs an average of ten-percent in 2018. Minnesota’s costs for an average low-cost silver plan are expected to drop another 11% in 2019.

Our state must do better at creating policy to provide affordable health care for all.

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Honoring Our Aging Veterans

Posted by Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout of Alma is an educator, business woman, and farmer who is now
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on Wednesday, 18 July 2018
in Wisconsin

veterans-agingSen. Kathleen Vinehout writes about the importance of honoring Wisconsin veterans by providing quality care at our state veterans’ homes and the work the LAB did to investigate staffing problems and maintenance issues at the King Veteran home in Waupaca.


ALMA, WI - “How are things at our veterans’ homes?” the Korean War vet asked me at a forum on veterans’ issues. The man was particularly concerned about what he heard about care at our Veterans Homes.

Veterans issues are personal for so many, including my family. Both my parents were veterans. My nephew serves now. My dad was a medic who flew rescue missions into Korea. Like so many, his experiences haunted him. He never talked about the trauma until he was dying.

On July 27th, we will celebrate the 65th anniversary of Korean War Armistice Day. Wisconsin is required by law to issue a proclamation for the observation of this day, asking the public to contemplate the sacrifices members of the U.S. Armed Forces made during the Korean War.

This commemoration, and a similar recognition for Vietnam Veterans Day on March 29th, exists because of the efforts of Alan Wright and many others who worked with me in 2009 to establish these important commemorations.

kathleen-vinehoutVeterans served us and it’s our obligation to serve them. When we strive to provide the best service to our veterans, we show our deep gratitude for their service. Correcting the deficits at our state veterans’ homes is a moral imperative in our service to veterans.

Wisconsin has three veterans’ homes: King in Waupaca County, Union Grove in Racine County and Chippewa Falls. Through these homes and other programs, Wisconsin made a commitment to care for our veterans. State officials are not keeping our promise.

Several audits, conducted by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB), including one released in the past year, provide details on what must be done to improve care at our homes, especially at King.

Our veterans are more in need. For example, over nine years of the audit study, there was a 28% increase in the number of residents at King with dementia and a 262% increase in the residents diagnosed with PTSD. Staffing, although increased a few years ago, hasn’t kept up with the increased needs of seriously ill veterans. Neither has staff training. Vacant positions are increasing. Mandatory overtime may be causing unsafe conditions.

Regular staff shortages pulled caregivers to other areas, leaving veterans without the consistent care they needed.

LAB conducted a survey of staff. Among those who participated, eighty-six percent of staff said they “disagreed” or “strongly disagreed” that King was adequately staffed; three-quarters of staff reported morale as being “poor” or “very poor.” Almost forty percent said they planned to look for another job in the next six months.

These results indicate very serious management problems. At the audit committee hearing, members pleaded with leaders to take these issues seriously. I left the hearing unconvinced changes would happen.

Auditors looked at concerns related to deteriorating facilities and found the Department of Veterans Affairs did not develop a systematic process for comprehensively identifying and assessing building projects. Auditors detailed a long list of needed projects including several related to potential resident safety.

Auditors documented money transferred from King to other programs. A lack of funds likely led to delayed maintenance, poor salaries and staff vacancies.

Especially serious was the way potential abuse, neglect and misappropriation of residents’ property were handled by management. In the LAB survey, thirty-seven respondents said they experienced negative consequences when they reported neglect, abuse, or misappropriation of property. Over one-third of respondents who witnessed abuse, neglect or misappropriation of property did not “always” report it – likely because they were afraid of negative consequences.

State and federal laws exist to protect our residents. Wisconsin must protect veterans and their families by protecting workers from retaliation when they report problems. We must better train managers so they understand the legal and moral problems of retaliating against workers who speak up. We must discipline and remove managers who retaliate.

To fix our veterans’ institutions, officials must stop treating King like a “cash cow” and siphoning money away from the home. Instead, wages should be raised, more staff should be hired, and facilities should be repaired.

We must engage staff, residents, and family members in finding solutions, by creating councils or regular, decision-making bodies that involve everyone in problem solving.

We face solvable problems. As stewards of our veterans’ sacrifices we must fix them.

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Senator Taylor Responds to Milwaukee Brewer Josh Hader’s Offensive Tweets

Posted by Lena Taylor, State Senator, 4th District
Lena Taylor, State Senator, 4th District
Lena Taylor, State Senator, 4th District has not set their biography yet
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on Wednesday, 18 July 2018
in Wisconsin

milw-brewers-miller-parkMADISON – The ten-year old social media posts that have recently surfaced by Josh Hader are incredibly offensive. I recognize that Josh has apologized for his actions and stressed that those past tweets do not reflect his current beliefs.

As with Donte DiVincenzo, who had questionable posts written when he was 14 years old, we are asked to remember that Hader was a teen when these things were said. However, the irony of Colin Kapernick— who said nothing inappropriate—being kept off the field for raising issues of race and inhumane treatment is not lost on me or many in the community. The contrast between losing your career for speaking a peaceful truth to race relations and receiving sensitivity training for racially incendiary language is glaring.

This is a teachable moment for all of us. In Hader’s case, these vile attitudes came from somewhere…he heard them or learned them somewhere. I’m glad to see the Brewers respond in a way that incorporates education and awareness of these issues.

****

Yesterday, a series of offensive tweets by Milwaukee Brewer Josh Hader were recently uncovered. Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) released this statement upon learning about these tweets.

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