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Celebrating Wisconsin’s Dairyland

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
User is currently offline
on Monday, 19 June 2017
in Wisconsin

wisc-dairy-farmThis week Sen. Kathleen Vinehout writes about celebrating Wisconsin’s Dairyland as part of June Dairy Month. She shares some reminiscences about being a dairy farmer.


ALMA, WI - “Do you still milk?” I asked Jim at a recent gathering. “No,” he told me. “My son tells me the most help I can be is to stay out of the way,” he joked. We both agreed that was hard. Dairying gets in your blood.

June is dairy month. A time to celebrate all we love about ‘America’s Dairyland’ – home to 1.28 million dairy cows, which is more than one cow for every five Wisconsinites.

Reminiscing with an old dairy farmer, you realize the love of cows and farming never really goes away. The smell of newly mowed hay or the glistening dew on the field of newly emerging corn brings back tangible memories. While the body is worn and weary, the mind still remembers the satisfaction of a job well done when every cow is milked and fed, the barn is clean and limed, and all the other farm animals are ready to settle in for the night.

Dairying is a life of details. Every good farmer I know carried a notebook in his or her coveralls. Did Daisy finish her feed? Is that heifer calf sucking up breakfast with the relish of yesterday? Did I call the mill to order feed? Which heifers need vaccinating? Everything is written down. A human’s touch completes each task.

Today we have computers to help remember the details. Robotic milking helps some farmers handle the milking chores. But, no matter the technology, there’s a human paying attention to the details on every successful farm.

That farmer also has back up from many other human resources who pay attention to details. Veterinarians, agronomists, implement dealers, dairy equipment technicians all answer that emergency call for the sick cow, sick crop or broken machinery. These folks are the back-up team that helps the farm family succeed.

Then there are the folks that provide psychological and moral support, like the spouse, who pays the bills, keeps the house clean and the hay crew fed. The pastor who counsels the family through hard times and the accountant who helps navigate moving the farm from father to daughter and son-in-law.

Reminiscing with Jim brought back my own memories of cold January mornings when I didn’t want to get out of bed at 4:00 a.m... Grudgingly I donned long underwear and layers of warm clothing and headed out into frigid weather.

Before I got the cows fed, Bob Bosold’s cheery voice came over the radio. “It’s the shank of the morning,” he crooned. Bob reported that it was another day (about the 16th in a row) where the high temperature was expected to be “two below.” He then launched into some corny joke about “Tupelo, Mississippi.” I do not remember the details, but it made me smile.

I am sure dairy farmers across western Wisconsin had a better day because every one of them knew Bob was up before the sun and hard at work before they ever ventured out into the subzero weather.

Bob Bosold, the long-time farm broadcaster at WAXX radio in Eau Claire, was recently recognized as the National Farm Broadcaster of the Year. This well-deserved honor cannot possibly capture the dedication of forty years Bob made to the farm families across Western Wisconsin. Every dairy breakfast, FFA convention, Farm Progress Days and early morning milking, Bob was present, by radio, bringing the important news and stories to the farming community.

His counterpart in the southern part of the state, Pam Jahnke – the Fabulous Farm Babe – has done the same since 1990. Bob and Pam are just some of the folks that make up a part of the fabric of our great dairy state.

We celebrate our great dairy state during June. However, every day we should be thankful for the farmers’ endless work, which feeds us and contributes to our economy. As Daniel Webster said, “Let us not forget that the cultivation of the earth is the most important labor of man. When tillage begins, other arts will follow. The farmers therefore are the founders of civilization.”

So hats off to the hard-working moms and dads, uncles and aunts, daughters and sons. Big thanks to the 84-year-old grandpa who still cuts the hay and the “retired” farmer Jim who “just can’t seem to stay out of the way!”

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Blue Jean Nation "The football game that never ends"

Posted by Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation
Mike McCabe, Blue Jean Nation
Mike McCabe is the founder and president of Blue Jean Nation and author of Blue
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on Friday, 16 June 2017
in Wisconsin

ProtestThe pro-life, pro-choice issue is a political football that both major party's use to whip up their base. What if we stopped taking the bait, and focused instead on solving this incredibly sensitive issue that the ruling elite clearly do not want to see resolved?


ALTOONA, WI - Here’s a truth about American politics that never seems to get acknowledged much less discussed: No major party in this country actually wants to outlaw abortion.

One says it does, but its actions tell a different story. Republicans control both houses of Congress and the White House, so they could make a law banning abortion across the nation. The law surely would be challenged in court but the ideologically conservative Republican appointees who have made up the majority on the U.S. Supreme Court since 1971 would have the final say. You’d expect them to uphold the law because Republican presidents have consistently considered an anti-abortion judicial record a key litmus test of the fitness of any judge to serve on the nation’s highest court.

For that matter, those Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices needn’t have waited for an act of Congress. At any time during the past four decades, the court could have taken up any number of abortion cases, overturned Roe v. Wade, and outlawed abortion. They have that power. Year after year, they have chosen not to use it.

In Wisconsin, Republicans control both houses of the state Legislature as well as the governor’s office. There’s nothing stopping them from making a law prohibiting abortion. A state Supreme Court controlled by Republican-backed justices would presumably bless such a law. Like their national counterparts, Wisconsin Republicans have had the power to outlaw abortion. They have repeatedly chosen not to do so.

It appears they realize that outlawing abortion won’t make the procedure disappear, it will only make it far more dangerous and even deadly. So they concentrate on obstructing and inconveniencing the women who seek abortions and the medical professionals who perform them. But most of all, they focus on using this deeply personal and intensely emotional issue as a political football, which they have kicked around for more than 40 years. They have used it to divide people and then harvest the votes these divisions produce. They have shown over an extended period of time that they have every intention of keeping this game going indefinitely.

There is glaring irony and hypocrisy here. The Republican Party has gone to the greatest lengths to market itself as the party of limited government and personal freedom. When it comes to the private lives of Americans, Republicans favor a very intrusive and meddlesome government. They don’t trust the choices Americans make in the bedroom and the bathroom and the doctor’s office. They want government to have a looming presence in those places.

More than anything, they want to keep people at each other’s throats. They want to keep us arguing about whether abortion should be legal or illegal. For 40-some years, we’ve kept kicking their football. We’ve screamed at each other, we’ve harassed and attacked each other. Sometimes it’s led to unspeakable acts of violence. All done to try to settle a matter that those in power have proven to be keenly interested in keeping unresolved.

Imagine where we would be on this issue if we had instead spent all this time looking for common ground on how to make abortion unnecessary. We would have talked so much more about how best to deal with sex education, how best to promote birth control and family planning, how best to combat poverty. We might have even hashed out some differences by now.

Think about what might be possible if we now chose to stop kicking the political football, and focused on starting a conversation on this incredibly sensitive topic that the ruling elite clearly do not want us to have.

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Will Wisconsin’s Future Children Receive an Equal Education?

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
User is currently offline
on Monday, 12 June 2017
in Wisconsin

teaching-studentsSen. Kathleen Vinehout argues the current budget stalemate is due in part to competing education funding proposals that do not address the needs facing school districts across the state. Legislative leaders know the school funding formula is broken, but they choose to ignore State Superintendent Tony Evers’ plan to change that way Wisconsin funds schools.


MADISON - Progress with the state budget is at a standoff in the Capitol. Behind closed doors, leaders are talking details and trying to find votes.

Openly, legislative leaders point to a lack of agreement on public education. They say no progress can happen until they round up necessary votes for the education portion of the budget. Privately, some GOP lawmakers are also angling to spend money on a big change to business personal property taxes. However, changes to taxes could take away money promised to schools.

Education is the largest part of the general fund budget (the portion of our budget paid for with mostly income and sales tax). Local school funding is made up of a combination of state aid and local property taxes. The two sources of money interact a bit like a teeter-totter – as one source drops (state aid), the other source goes up (property taxes). For example, property taxes go up school districts pass referenda to fund needs left unserved by declining state aid.

Wisconsin pays for schools through an Equalized Aid formula, which is meant to equalize resources to children no matter where they live in the state. The idea of equal opportunity for children regardless of their zip code is deeply rooted in our state. Principles enshrined in Wisconsin’s Constitution include public education as a state function that is free with reasonable equality of education opportunities for all children and without excessive reliance on property taxes. Lawmakers must grapple with meeting those principles.

Under the Governor’s proposal, school funding through equalized aid would be lower in the 2018-19 school year than it was thirteen years prior. The effect of these decisions will intensify the inequalities schoolchildren across Wisconsin face.

Progress with the state budget is at a standoff in the Capitol. Behind closed doors, leaders are talking details and trying to find votes.

Openly, legislative leaders point to a lack of agreement on public education. They say no progress can happen until they round up necessary votes for the education portion of the budget. Privately, some GOP lawmakers are also angling to spend money on a big change to business personal property taxes. However, changes to taxes could take away money promised to schools.

Education is the largest part of the general fund budget (the portion of our budget paid for with mostly income and sales tax). Local school funding is made up of a combination of state aid and local property taxes. The two sources of money interact a bit like a teeter-totter – as one source drops (state aid), the other source goes up (property taxes). For example, property taxes go up school districts pass referenda to fund needs left unserved by declining state aid.

Wisconsin pays for schools through an Equalized Aid formula, which is meant to equalize resources to children no matter where they live in the state. The idea of equal opportunity for children regardless of their zip code is deeply rooted in our state. Principles enshrined in Wisconsin’s Constitution include public education as a state function that is free with reasonable equality of education opportunities for all children and without excessive reliance on property taxes. Lawmakers must grapple with meeting those principles.

Under the Governor’s proposal, school funding through equalized aid would be lower in the 2018-19 school year than it was thirteen years prior. The effect of these decisions will intensify the inequalities schoolchildren across Wisconsin face.

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Proponents of Constitutional Convention Should Try Governing Instead

Posted by League Women Voters WI, Andrea Kaminski
League Women Voters WI, Andrea Kaminski
League Women Voters WI, Andrea Kaminski has not set their biography yet
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on Wednesday, 07 June 2017
in Wisconsin

lady-liberty-holding-noseWisconsin Assembly scheduled to call next week for a federal constitutional convention to add a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It's a bad idea, says League of Women Voters.


MADISON – The Wisconsin Assembly is tentatively scheduled to vote next week on proposals calling for a federal constitutional convention for the purpose of adding a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. We respect people’s concerns about the federal debt, but this is the wrong way to tackle that problem. It is also a particularly dangerous path to take.

First, a balanced budget requirement would weaken our ability as a nation to respond to unforeseen emergencies, such as a natural disaster, attack from the outside or economic recession. The federal government would not be able to respond without increasing taxes – just at a time when fewer people might be working.

Second, a constitutional amendments convention could go in many different directions. It would put at risk every citizen right currently protected in the Constitution, including such things as voting rights and freedom of speech.

Proponents note that one of the proposals before the Assembly would restrict the role of our own state’s delegates to voting only on a budget amendment at the convention, but that ignores the fact that our state would be only one of fifty at the convention. Besides, some constitutional experts say that such rules could easily be considered irrelevant once the gathering convenes.

Proponents of these disastrous proposals say that a constitutional convention is needed because we can’t count on Congress to pass a balanced budget. They point out that the elected representatives of the people, including many who are all for a balanced budget when they are running for office, shy away from enacting it once elected. Come to think of it, that seems to happen at both the federal and state level.

It is ironic that these proposals are being promoted in Wisconsin by the party that is in the majority in both Congress and the state legislature. Why should the U.S. Constitution be at risk for complete revision just so these politicians can accomplish what they already have the power to do legislatively?

voter-usI would like to believe there are enough members among their ranks who know that a balanced budget requirement is not a responsible measure for protecting the safety and economic security of our nation or state. But if they are that wise, why would they risk what could be a catastrophic assault on our Constitution?

Maybe they think it would never really happen. However, if the Wisconsin legislature passes these proposals, our state would be number 30 out of the 34 states needed to force a constitutional convention.

Our nation is changing, and that change is taking place in every state and every district. With a provision to add amendments individually as needed, the U.S. Constitution has afforded us the flexibility for more than 200 years to keep up with the ever-changing needs of the American people.

Assembly lawmakers who take their responsibility of governing seriously should reject these foolhardy proposals, which would endanger our citizen rights and our nation’s ability to respond to emergencies.

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Tax Credit Pays Off For Job Cutters

Posted by Janet Bewley, State Senator Dist 25
Janet Bewley, State Senator Dist 25
Janet Bewley, State Senator Dist 25 was elected to the Senate in the fall of 201
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 07 June 2017
in Wisconsin

walker-open-businessHandouts to so-called "job creators" under the manufacturing tax credit not working. It’s time to put working taxpayers first, says Sen. Bewley.


MADISON - “It’s quiet… too quiet.” We’ve all heard that line in one movie or another. The halls of the State Capitol can have a ghostly quality when it’s quiet. This makes the sounds of lobbyists’ footsteps all the more noticeable as they make their way from one back room to another – especially the distinctive patter from pricey loafers often chosen by special interest lobbyists.

With the Legislature’s budget committee taking time off from public meetings, these lobbyists are working on deals as the process winds down. An alarming and costly deal that was slipped into an earlier budget took full effect last year.

The so-called manufacturing tax credit was touted as a tool to create jobs but actually pays out when jobs are cut. Nothing in the credit required job creation. Worse, investors can still qualify for the credit even when jobs are eliminated.

The results? Wisconsin LOST nearly four thousand manufacturing jobs in 2016. Adding injury to injury, the GOP is forcing workers to pay off the insiders who eliminated the jobs with 300 million hard-earned tax dollars every year.

At the national level, last year marked a sea change for Republican politicians. After years of cuts to workers and handouts to job-cutters, Republican voters chose a candidate who pledged to put work and workers first.

Unfortunately here in Wisconsin it’s more of the same.

Career Republicans on the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee voted to punish workers who lose their jobs by cutting their access to Homestead property tax credits. After the GOP raised taxes on workers who’ve lost jobs, they rejected cutting tuition for technical colleges so they could keep handing $300 million of your hard-earned tax dollars a year to wealthy insiders who eliminated manufacturing jobs.

In 2010, well before the state was providing the manufacturing tax credit, Wisconsin gained 12,000 new manufacturing jobs. That was the 4th largest manufacturing job gain in the nation.

In 2016 the GOP took $300 million from those workers’ pockets and gave it to insiders who cut nearly 4,000 manufacturing jobs. Wages in Wisconsin that were already too low fell in 2016. The Wisconsin GOP economic plan trailed the national recovery for another year and suffered its worst overall private sector job performance since the depths of the Great Recession.

And the Wisconsin version of the GOP hauled out an old line about people who work for living needing to pull themselves up by the bootstraps. Only people who spend their time in back rooms with loafers think that’s what bootstraps are for. And only special interests getting the handouts think this is a job creation plan.

It’s not working. Not because they’re out to get us, but because the special interests simply don’t care what their plans do for – or to -- anyone on the outside. As the Wisconsin GOP continues to defy the national tide, the people doing better are the less than ½ of 1 percent of taxpayers who got a handout for eliminating jobs.

It’s time to stop putting lobbyists in loafers ahead of working taxpayers who know what bootstraps are actually for. It’s time to put Wisconsinites who do the work and pay the bills first.

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