Monday March 27, 2017

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Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District

Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District

State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Madison) - A former radio personality and legislative assistant, Erpenbach was elected to represent the 27th Senate District in November of 1998 and was re-elected in 2002, 2006, 2010, and 2014. Jon’s Senate colleagues elected him Senate Democratic Leader in December 2002. He served in that position until December 2004.
Senator Erpenbach has worked in the Legislature to regulate issue ads since his election in 1998 to the Senate, that includes working on bipartisan proposals to limit outside spending in elections and shed light on who is spending money to influence the outcomes of elections and legislation.
For more information please contact his office at 608-266-66790 or 888-549-0027 or sen.erpenbach@legis.wi.gov

More Accountability Needed for Taxpayer Funds at King Nursing Home

Posted by Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District
Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District
State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Madison) - A former radio personality and legisla
User is currently offline
on Friday, 17 March 2017
in Wisconsin

veteran-olderFunds provided by families and the federal government for the care of our nursing home residents should be used at the veteran nursing homes first.


MADISON - Caring for our veterans is one of the most sacred duties we work to achieve as a state. We have been entrusted by the Federal government to care for elderly and disabled veterans and their spouses at our veteran nursing homes. These facilities should have the gold standard of care. Unfortunately, like many other operations of the state, infrastructure and maintenance delays and failures have affected the lives of those in our nursing homes, most notable at the Veterans Home at King. This is NOT a money problem. Even when state finances were tight just after the recession, the veteran nursing homes have been building surplus of funds.

While the federal government has decided not to limit how states can spend surplus revenues, we can still make the right choices here in Wisconsin and invest in our veteran care with money that was paid to care for veterans. The first step in that process is taking back control of transfers out of the veteran nursing home surplus fund. Currently about $35 million of revenue sits in this surplus fund. This money can be transferred out of the fund at any time not by the Legislature, but by a political appointee, the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. The only way the Legislature even knows about the transfers are because of a statutory required annual report to the Legislature on the Veterans Fund.

Why does the veteran’s nursing Home fund have a surplus? These revenues are derived from an exemption from the nursing home bed tax, the federal per diem paid to facilities for the care of veterans, federal service related disability payments made for the care of disabled veterans, the higher state rate for reimbursement for Medicaid, and private payment from veterans and their families.

The 2013 budget included language that allowed for unlimited transfers from the veterans nursing home fund into the Veterans Fund without Legislative approval. The Legislature added JFC passive review, but the Governor vetoed it. DVA can now transfer, at any time, surplus from our state veteran’s nursing homes facilities. Unfortunately, turning back the clock and granting facility upgrade requests is not an option. $18.5 million in facility improvements in the last state budget were zero funded by Governor Walker. Our only choice as a Legislature is to move forward. That is why I am proposing a bill to reestablish Legislative oversight of all funding for the veterans homes. The DVA will transfer a total of $21 million away from the Veterans Nursing Homes just this biennium. Passing the buck on financial oversight is wrong.

A state that supports their veterans spends state money for programs for veterans and does not use money meant for the care and comfort in nursing homes for agency administration and rent. Funds provided by families and the federal government for the care of our nursing home residents should be used at the veteran nursing homes first.

For more information on the Veterans Fund please contact my office at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 608-266-6670 or 888-549-0027.

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Seasonal Unemployment Changes Hurting Businesses and Communities

Posted by Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District
Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District
State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Madison) - A former radio personality and legisla
User is currently offline
on Monday, 13 February 2017
in Wisconsin

construction-workersFor years, people in occupations like the construction trades could get up to 12 weeks of UC wages when laid off seasonally. The rule helped local contractors keep their workforce intact until projects could resume and they were glad to pay for it, but in 2015 the Walker administration ended the practice for what it called cost savings. Sen. Erpenbach is introducing a bill to put it back.


MADISON - One thing you can always count on in Wisconsin is winter. Winter will come and with it for some businesses and employees a time when work simply cannot be done because of the weather. Recognizing that seasonal unemployment is different than getting fired from a job, Wisconsin law has allowed businesses to place a “winter hold” on their employees when the weather makes working impossible.

This hold means not only that businesses can keep the people that they have trained, but is also keeps employees from having to take a job they don’t need just because they are required to accept a job or lose unemployment insurance. I am proposing a fix with colleagues that I hope will receive overwhelming support in the Legislature.

This issue came to my office through a listening session and played out in the real world a bit differently than I would have expected. A constituent from New Glarus works outside construction so every year he is seasonally unemployed. To keep busy and help his community, he volunteers significantly more in winter with the local fire and rescue which is an all-volunteer force. This gives a break to everyone else who puts their lives on hold to save the lives of their neighbors. Turns out he is not alone.

Finding people willing to get up in the middle of the night to pull a neighbor from a burning house, or a car accident, or suffering from a stroke is more and more difficult. The incentives for volunteer fire departments just are not there, and with an aging rural population this is truly an emergency care crisis. Last summer a Legislative Council Study committee worked to address this crisis and has proposed a set of bills to help rural Wisconsin. I will support each and every one of them and I hope my colleagues will too. Missing from that list unfortunately is this bill, which I believe should have been included.

This issue is not just about volunteer emergency crews in rural Wisconsin, it is also about each and every business in rural and urban Wisconsin that wants to keep their employees they have trained and invested in. The change to prohibit a “winter hold” on employees was not made by the Legislature; it was made by the Department of Workforce Development and the Governor Walker administration. In 2015 this rule changed and we have heard from businesses and employers ever since how bad it is for business in Wisconsin.

Despite our advocacy to have the rule changed and outrage at the unemployment advisory council, the administration has failed to change this rule. That means we will have to try a law change again this year. I am hopeful other Legislators that represent rural areas will step up and cross party lines to support their local businesses and communities and support this change. Contact your state Legislators and ask them to support allowing a “winter hold” on employees to help your community and the businesses that keep it working.

****

For more information on seasonal unemployment changes and what they have meant for businesses, employees and emergency medical services contact my office at 608-266-6670 or 888-549-0027 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

This issue is being discussed by the Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council (UIAC). For more information about it and it's work, go HERE.

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Wisconsin Roads Desperate for Leadership

Posted by Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District
Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District
State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Madison) - A former radio personality and legisla
User is currently offline
on Friday, 03 February 2017
in Wisconsin

road-closed-delayState highway Projects have cost $3 billion more than projected, and the quality of Wisconsin roads have deteriorated in just five years. What's wrong, and what can we do better?


MADISON - The Department of Transportation audit announcement felt like a sucker punch to the gut. Projects in the works for our state roads have cost $3 billion more than projected. $3 billion more than the Legislature planned for. This is simply unbelievable. Wisconsin roads have gone from 53% “good” to 41% “good” in just five years.

How do our roads deteriorate that much in just five years? Complete lack of adequate funding. The 2011 state budget cut road funding by delaying projects, postponing large projects and cutting funds to rural roads in Wisconsin. Each and every budget since then has done the same thing. The Transportation Fund has been in crisis mode since the Legislature repealed the indexing of the gas tax and there have been no true solutions put forth by the majority party.

Before the last biennial budget, this crisis was truly recognized statewide by all Legislators and the Governor. Governor Walker even asked his Transportation Secretary to come up with possible solutions to this economic crisis. A group of experts met and they came up with many different options for ensuring that our immediate road needs and our long term funding crisis could be addressed. Governor Walker and the Republican majority rejected each and every idea this group of experts put forth. Instead, they chose to borrow once again for our roads and delayed projects, postponed large projects, and cut funding to rural roads. It is like ground hogs day with an increasingly bumpy road.

Why is funding for roads so important? First and foremost is the safety of all of us going where we need to go. Hazardous roads equal unsafe roads for our families. Second is the economy. How can we expect our lagging economy to improve if we don’t have the infrastructure to support the businesses that work here? How can we expect new businesses to move into a state that has 41% “poor” roads? From farms to factories, road travel is still the cheapest and fastest way for businesses to move products and supplies. We will never catch up to our neighboring states if we do not invest in our roads.

Delaying and bonding and backfilling have been used time and time again to fund our roads and it simply is not working. Over 20 cents on every dollar we are spending now to build our roads is going to financing of yesterday’s projects. This credit card, funding scheme has to stop.

I stand ready, as I have for the last six years, willing to work with any Legislator with the strength to find a short term and long term solution for transportation funding. Governor Walker and Legislative Republicans need to put their money where their mouths are and help this state. No more excuses.

******

For more information on the Legislative Audit of the Department of Transportation or the Transportation Financing crisis contact my office at 608-266-6670 or 888-549-0027 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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Illegal Coordination Highlighted in Guardian Story

Posted by Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District
Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District
State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Madison) - A former radio personality and legisla
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 14 September 2016
in Wisconsin

scott-walker-sworeinSenate Republicans knew they were blowing our campaign finance laws to pieces for their own personal benefit. That is the true crime in all of this.


MADISON, WI - Last November, the Wisconsin Senate Republicans made changes to Wisconsin election laws that they knew would allow collusion and coordination between political candidates and dark money issue ads in elections. This move was needed because they had been breaking the law, most notable in the recall elections as highlighted in The Guardian leak of thousands of pages of a John Doe investigation into Governor Scott Walker.

Wisconsin courts have found that if a group is coordinating on issue ads with a candidate, their spending -- regardless of whether it includes express advocacy -- can be considered a contribution, which under Wisconsin law encompasses both cash donations and the giving of anything of value. AB 387 changed that and made collusion and coordination legal, even when candidates coordinate with ’issue advocacy’ groups.

Issue ads claim they are NOT campaigning because they are just educating voters, not trying to influence the outcome of an election. But coordination with a candidate is the definition of campaigning. We argued all day on the Senate floor and every single Senate Republican knew they were blowing our campaign finance laws to pieces for their own personal benefit. That is the true crime in all of this. Politicians voting to benefits themselves.

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Services Best Delivered in Counties with Direct Veteran-to-Veteran Support

Posted by Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District
Jon Erpenbach. State Senator 27th District
State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Madison) - A former radio personality and legisla
User is currently offline
on Thursday, 28 July 2016
in Wisconsin

iraq-warCounty Veterans Service Officers are our most essential direct contact to veterans in Wisconsin, but the State DVA has targeted them and it needs to stop. Why this relentless attack on CVSO officers and veterans by the Wisconsin DVA?


MIDDLETON, WI - Veterans in Wisconsin need only to travel within their own county to have personal contact with another veteran helping navigate access to services. That office is the County Veterans Service Office by statute a “bricks and mortar” office where a veteran can receive support and assistance from another veteran.

CVSO’s are our most essential direct contact to veterans in Wisconsin. Why are they under attack from the Department of Veterans Affairs and Secretary John Scocos? I have no idea, but I want it to stop.

CVSO’s should have easier access to direct service connections with state and federal benefits, but instead, the Wisconsin DVA has been making it harder for CVSO’s to help veterans. From limiting access to benefits programs to blocking grants without proper legal authority, the DVA has targeted CVSO’s and it needs to stop.

There is no reason Wisconsin government should be trying to consolidate veterans services and make veterans travel farther for help, but that is exactly what the DVA is peddling in the Legislature.

I support expanding the role of CVSO’s to help veterans; that is not only logical but good public policy. We have a public health crisis with delayed mental health services for veterans and their families and we should expand CVSO offices to help with this crisis.

Why this relentless attack on CVSO officers and veterans by the Wisconsin DVA?

The answer to that question really doesn’t matter. No state agency should stand in the way of community driven services for veteran-to-veteran counseling and benefit support.

If the DVA needs to cut their budget they should look to their own agency overhead rather than the small grants that CVSO’s get from the state. Recent articles have cited that the DVA spends two dollars on administration costs for every dollar they spend on services; that certainly can be improved.

This should not be a war between the DVA and veterans receiving services in the community through their local CVSO office. Making it a war is a huge mistake for Wisconsin’s veterans. I am hopeful Governor Walker and Legislative Republicans see through the bad public policies the DVA is putting forward trying to consolidate CVSO offices regionally, making veterans drive even further to receive help.

Regardless of the DVA’s poor decisions, there are Legislators just like me committed to supporting county based veteran-to-veteran benefits support and counseling. But we need your advocacy help working together to stop this ridiculous policy push right now.

***

For more information on CVSO offices and how to get in touch with your Legislators contact my office at 888-549-0027 or 608-266-6670 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

For more information on CVSO officers, check here.

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