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Northwoods Political Digest

August 16, 2019

Evers to Trump: End unproductive trade wars

Gov. Tony Evers this week called on President Donald Trump to listen to farmers and put an end to what he called an unnecessary trade war between the United States and its international partners, including China.

The president’s never-ending tariffs are having a direct, negative impact on many industries in Wisconsin, but perhaps none more than agriculture, an $88 billion industry in Wisconsin that employs one out of every nine workers in the state, Evers wrote in a letter to the president.

“One Tweet can harm thousands of Wisconsin citizens who make their living in our agricultural industry,” Evers wrote. “As many farmers will tell you, aid payments cannot make up for what they’ve lost financially or personally. A government check simply does not make up for the pride they felt knowing they were getting a fair price for their high-quality corn, soybeans, or ginseng.”

Evers said he was focused on maintaining Wisconsin’s successful relationships abroad and investing in programs that help Wisconsin producers gain access to global markets and improve their presence in local ones.

“Farmers want trade more than government aid,” he wrote. “They deserve better than short-sighted trade wars that do lasting damage to their businesses and their heritage. They have told us what we can do to support them, and tariffs are not on the list.”

Nygren: Evers embraces Republican health care investments

State Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) says Gov. Tony Evers is falling in line with Republicans on health care.

“Yesterday, Gov. Tony Evers toured two of Wisconsin’s many free and charitable clinics to tout the money that Republicans provided in the Wisconsin budget,” Nygren said. “This follows a previous announcement from Gov. Evers that health care is both affordable and accessible in our state as a result of the Wisconsin reinsurance program crafted by Republicans.”

After inaction from Evers, Republicans on the Joint Committee on Finance voted to provide over 100 free and charitable clinics across Wisconsin with increased funding, Nygren said.

“Even with very low uninsured rates, free and charitable clinics are a safety-net provider for over 150,000 Wisconsinites on a yearly basis,” he said. “Understanding the importance of these health care providers, Republicans included $1 million in state funds for free and charitable clinics around the state.”

Last week, Nygren continued, Evers announced that due to investments made by Gov. Scott Walker and Republicans in the Legislature, that “2020 rates on Wisconsin’s individual health insurance market will be 3.2% lower on a weighted average compared to 2019 rates.”

“In what seems to be a trend, Gov. Evers is now embracing actions taken by Republicans in the state budget process,” he said. “This is another example, in a long line of them, of how we can expand access to affordable care without expanding welfare in Wisconsin. I look forward to seeing what Republican idea Gov. Evers takes credit for next.”

Vos to head National Conference of State Legislatures

Wisconsin Assembly speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) became the 47th president of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) at this year’s annual Legislative Summit in Nashville.

Vos, a Republican, succeeds Democratic Senator Toi Hutchinson of Illinois. NCSL, a bipartisan organization that serves the nation’s 7,383 state lawmakers and more than 20,000 legislative staff, alternates its leadership annually between the two parties. 

Vos is the first elected official from Wisconsin in the leadership post.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues from around the country as the new NCSL president,” Vos said. “Throughout my years at the bipartisan organization, NCSL has served as the premier voice for states, providing valuable resources to members and effectively advocating on behalf of states in Washington, D.C.”

In his role, Vos said he would continue to represent Wisconsin and work to advocate for a greater reliance on federalism to allow states to innovate and find solutions for the issues facing the country.

Vos has served as the 75th speaker of the Wisconsin Assembly since 2013. He is the longest serving GOP speaker in Wisconsin history. In the preceding years, he served consecutively in the Wisconsin Assembly beginning in 2004.

Vos said he is proud of the bipartisan work in the Assembly where more than 90% of the bills passed receive bipartisan support. His speaker’s task forces have developed legislation on topics including mental health, rural schools, Alzheimer’s and dementia, urban education, water quality, suicide prevention and foster care.

Vos lives in Rochester, where he operates a variety of businesses in southeastern Wisconsin.

State Assembly to honor first responders

Assembly speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) has announced a new recognition program for first responders. 

Wisconsinites, including local leaders, are asked to submit nominations for the First Responder of the Year award to their state representative before early September. State representatives will each select a district winner who will be recognized during an October floor session as part of First Responders Appreciation Month.

“It’s important that we honor our first responders who serve and protect our communities every single day,” Vos said. “We appreciate their dedication and would like to express our gratitude for putting their lives on the line for the safety of others.”

Nominations can be directed to the first responder’s state representative. The nomination can be predicated on a variety of factors, including a specific heroic action, a significant professional achievement, community work, and/or length of service.

The person nominated can be a police officer or sheriff’s deputy, a firefighter or any level of EMS provider. It can also be a paid or volunteer public servant.

The speaker’s office is coordinating the recognition effort and has asked that a winner from each district be delivered to his office by Friday, Sept. 14.

UW study: Agriculture generates $104.8 billion and 437,700 jobs in Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s farms and agricultural businesses generate $104.8 billion in economic activity and 437,700 jobs, based on data for 2017, according to a new study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

That’s an increase from a 2012 study that found agriculture generated $88.3 billion in economic activity and 413,500 jobs in the state.

“The status of agriculture in Wisconsin has received significant attention in 2019 and has raised concerns about the health of the agricultural industry and its role in the Wisconsin economy,” says Steven Deller, Division of Extension community development economist and professor in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics at UW-Madison. “Despite currently weak commodity prices, particularly within dairy, agriculture remains an important part of the Wisconsin economy.”

Deller’s study is conducted every five years going back to the 1990s. For the purposes of the current study, agriculture is composed of two parts: on-farm production and food processing. Deller found that the bulk of the growth in the contribution of agriculture to the Wisconsin economy between 2012 and 2017 is growth in the food processing sector.

“These two parts of agriculture can be thought of as two sides to the same coin and as one does better the other does better,” says Deller. “The continued weak net farm income may put the food processing industry at risk. There is a clear balancing act between ensuring a healthy farm economy while continuing to promote growth in food processing.”

Heidi Johnson, Extension Agriculture Institute interim director, said the results of the analysis were very interesting, that while on-farm activity was not a major contributor to the increase in the economic impact, as a whole, the economic contribution of agriculture increased.

“But this doesn’t soften the financial blow that many farms in Wisconsin are taking under continued depressed commodity prices,” Johnson said.

Kaul joins lawsuit against Trump’s ‘dirty power’ rule

Wisconsin attorney general Josh Kaul, with a coalition of 22 states and seven local governments, has announced a lawsuit against the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its “ACE” rule. 

The ACE rule replaced the Clean Power Plan, the first-ever nationwide limits on one of the largest sources of pollution: existing fossil-fueled power plants. The EPA’s rule rolls back those limits and will have virtually no impact on emissions, prolonging the nation’s reliance on polluting, expensive coal power plants and obstructing progress of states toward clean, renewable, and affordable electricity generation, Kaul asserts.

“Climate change is not only real; it’s a crisis,” Kaul said. “We’re only beginning to see its effects, including severe flooding and extreme temperatures. We can’t afford to wait for 20 years or a decade to take meaningful action. We need to step up now and to start responding to the climate crisis like our kids’ future depends on it — because it does.”

Besides ignoring the science of climate change, Kaul says the rule disregards requirements of the federal Clean Air Act. The Clean Air Act requires that limits on air pollutants, such as greenhouse gases, must be based on the emissions reductions achievable through the “best system of emission reduction.” 

However, in what Kaul calls Trump’s “Dirty Power” rule, Kaul says the EPA has ruled out as such a “best system” the most cost-effective, proven, and successful approach to controlling greenhouse gas emissions: shifting from coal-fueled generation to less carbon-intensive generation.

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