Friday December 9, 2022

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It’s Time To Move Forward Past Political Division

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 07 December 2022
in Wisconsin

evers-2019-sosSenator Smith discusses the importance of bipartisan effort and cooperation going into the 2023 Legislative Session.


MADISON - Reflecting on my two years of service in the in the Wisconsin State Assembly and four years of service in the State Senate, I notice a stark difference in the way the people’s business was handled then and now.

Don’t get me wrong, there were still intense political disagreements, but we also discussed the merits of bills during public hearings and while meeting in the halls of the Capitol. The power of a good idea pulled Republicans and Democrats together.

During the 8 years of the Walker administration, the Majority Party largely ignored the Minority Party. Harsh political fights over collective bargaining rights, redistricting, voting rights and many other issues left legislators very little appetite for bipartisanship.

Then Governor Evers was elected, and the Majority Party continued to show little interest in working across the aisle. I’ve said it. Governor Evers said it. Even Republican leaders said it - “We need to work together.” Still, the last four years has been marked by differing priorities, without the dialogue needed to resolve these conflicts.

Wisconsin has an estimated $6.6 billion dollar surplus this year. We have an amazing opportunity to reinvest this surplus in our public school system, with Governor Evers’ budget proposal adding $2 billion in investments in public schools. However, Republican leaders have different priorities, including expanding school choice statewide.

We all agree a middle class tax cut is a good idea, and Governor Evers has proposed tax cuts that would give relief to low-income families, seniors and veterans. Moving forward, I’m hoping that we can come together on a tax plan that will help all Wisconsinites prosper.

wi-senate-swearing-inImagine if Democrats and Republicans stood shoulder to shoulder advocating for a middle class tax cut at a press conference. Imagine if the Majority Party invited the Minority Party to the table to discuss how to accomplish our shared goal. The final product would be more representative of the needs of all Wisconsinites.

Unfortunately, there’s still some reluctance in really working together or perhaps there’s uncertainty as to where we start. I have a few ideas on what we can do first.

As Senators and Representatives we bring our unique experiences and differing opinions to the job. Every new session offers us an opportunity to start a productive dialogue to learn from each other. We can’t let our own bias and partisanship get in the way of doing what’s right.

jeff-smithWhen I was elected four years ago to represent District 31 in the State Senate, I made a commitment with my team to meet with Democratic and Republican legislators in the Assembly and the Senate. Four years on, I’m renewing that commitment. I’ll take this time to listen to their ideas and learn more about the communities they represent.

Having these conversations to acknowledge our differences and similarities is the first step for establishing mutual respect. These relationships can build trust so we can, again, make the right decisions for the future of our state.

A team’s success begins and ends with trust in each other. As a lifelong sports fan and former high school sports participant (can’t honestly say I was a star athlete, but I tried), I know how much further we get when we work as a team.

I’ve observed Republicans finding Democrats who might add their name next to theirs as co-authors of their bills. That’s a good step, but adding names is not enough; it’s about adding good ideas too. As legislators, we need to prioritize cooperative input and let the power of a good idea take root in our Legislature.

We have an opportunity to turn the page and heal the political divisions. Progress will happen once we put away the political scorecards and move forward.

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Record $93M in Spending by Outside Groups in Wis in 2022

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
User is currently offline
on Monday, 05 December 2022
in Wisconsin

money-behind-politicsReport finds spending by special interest groups in this fall’s legislative races in Wisconsin and for the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, and treasurer shattered the old record by 50 percent.


MADISON - Spending by special interest groups in this fall’s legislative races in Wisconsin and for the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, and treasurer shattered the old record by 50 percent, a preliminary review by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign found.

The $93.01 million spent in 2022 by outside groups crushed the previous record $61.86 million set in 2018 for mid-term fall races that also featured both legislative and statewide contests in Wisconsin. And the 2022 spending figure was 154 percent higher than the $36.63 million spent by outside groups in 2014 and nearly five times higher than the $18.9 million spent on Wisconsin legislative and statewide races in 2010. (See chart below.)

outside-spending2010-22

None of these spending figures includes outside group spending in federal races for the U.S. House or U.S. Senate.

The lion’s share of the outside money in 2022 – $78.9 million – was spent on the governor’s race.

Six dozen special interest groups threw their money around to praise or smear candidates.

Thirty-five groups spent $48.25 million to benefit Republicans, 36 groups spent $44.06 million to benefit Democrats, and one group spent $686,660 to bolster the independent candidate for governor.

These electioneering groups fall into two categories – express advocacy groups and phony issue ad groups. Express advocacy groups, which make independent expenditures, must report their spending to the state. That’s because their broadcast and online advertising, mailings and other electioneering activities use the magic words “vote for” or “vote against” or their equivalents.

Phony issue ad groups, which can also raise and spend unlimited amounts of money on elections, do not have to report their spending because of federal court decisions and lax campaign finance laws. These groups smear or praise candidates but without explicitly telling viewers who to vote for or against.

The top-spending groups, which doled out all or most of their money in the governor’s race, were:

Democratic Governors Association spent an estimated $20.1 million using a phony issue ad group called the Alliance for Common Sense which blanketed the airwaves with television ads attacking GOP candidate for governor Tim Michels on education, abortion, guns, and media reports about sexual harassment complaints filed by female employees of his construction company;

Republican Governors Association spent an estimated $15.3 million using three entities – Right Direction Wisconsin PACACC Wisconsin 2022 PAC, and State Solutions – mostly on television ads throughout the state that attacked Evers on crime and tax issues from July until Election Day;

A Better Wisconsin Together spent an estimated $6.8 million using an express advocacy group and an issue ad group with nearly the same name, making it particularly difficult to track spending by the issue ad group because it can keep its spending secret. All told, A Better Wisconsin Together spent money on television and digital advertising in 23 legislative races to support Democratic candidates, as well as the contests for governor to back Evers and attorney general to support incumbent Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul;

Americans for Prosperity spent $6.53 million on a host of electioneering activities, including canvassing, mailings, door hangers, and digital and radio ads to support Michels, GOP attorney general candidate Adam Jarchow, and Republican candidates in 19 legislative races;

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) spent an estimated $4.52 million using an issue ad group and an express advocacy group . Most of WMC’s issue ad spending was for television advertising that backed Republicans and smeared Democrats in the race for governor and two legislative contests. The group’s ads in the governor’s race attacked Evers on education, crime, and tax issues, and also blamed the incumbent for inflation. Early in the year, WMC spent about $25,000 on a digital ad to support GOP candidate for governor Rebecca Kleefisch, who lost to Michels in the August primary.

To see how much was spent by all of the outside groups involved in Wisconsin’s 2022 fall legislative and statewide races, please see the table below. For more information about the groups and their electioneering activities, please visit our Hijacking Campaign 2022 feature and click on their names.

A final report on the total cost of this year’s legislative and statewide elections will be issued early next year after the groups and candidates file amendments and year-end fundraising and spending reports.

Table
Spending by Electioneering Groups in the 2022 Fall Elections

GroupAmount
Alliance for Common Sense (Democratic Governors Association)* $20,150,000
Right Direction Wisconsin PAC (Republican Governors Association) $9,293,038
A Better Wisconsin Together** $6,794,866
Americans for Prosperity $6,531,490
Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce** $4,524,998
Fighting for Wisconsin $4,378,114
ACC Wisconsin 2022 PAC (Republican Governors Association) $4,025,754
Wisconsin Conservation Voters IE Committee $3,818,779
Club for Growth Action $3,552,571
Future Forward USA Action* $3,400,000
Wisconsin Freedom PAC (Republican Attorneys General Association) $3,114,213
Freedom Wisconsin PAC $2,564,000
State Solutions (Republican Governors Association)* $2,000,000
DAGA People’s Lawyer Project (Democratic Attorneys General Association) $1,899,564
Sunrise in America Political Fund $1,866,844
The Wisconsin Initiative* $1,700,000
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin Political Fund $1,316,721
Republican Accountability PAC $992,584
Restoration PAC $935,000
Wisconsin RINO Hunters $686,660
American Federation for Children IE Committee $678,995
Wisconsin Alliance for Reform* $600,000
Jobs First Coalition Political Fund $529,201
Voces de la Frontera Action $463,892
National Rifle Association (NRA) Political Victory Fund $423,653
Badger Values PAC $407,483
Wisconsinites for Liberty Fund $407,279
For Our Future $390,595
Power to the Polls Wisconsin $389,443
Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Wisconsin State Council $379,647
WFP National PAC (Work Families Party) $334,575
Women Speak Out PAC $322,872
Wisconsin Realtors Political Fund $320,000
Family Friendly Action PAC $290,412
Republican State Leadership Committee $284,192
Project Democracy $278,650
The Lincoln Project $254,450
American Principles Project PAC $227,428
Wisconsin Family Action $225,875
Election Integrity PAC $208,344
Speak Free or Die $155,000
Black Leaders Organizing for Communities (BLOC) PAC $141,688
BlackPAC $136,045
Make Liberty Win $135,491
New Prosperity Foundation $111,964
Working America $109,190
Empower Wisconsin* $100,000
American Majority Action $94,736
Human Rights Campaign Equality Votes PAC $93,626
American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Working Families Fund $92,585
New Prosperity Foundation IE Committee $85,500
Volunteers for Agriculture (Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation) $84,058
National Nurses United for Patient Protection $69,427
WorkMoney Inc. $68,939
Free and Fair Elections USA $67,740
Blue Sky Waukesha $61,215
Community Change Voters $61,149
NextGen Climate Action Committee $60,228
Leaders Igniting Transformation Action Fund $56,167
Patriots for Wisconsin $49,983
SEIU Committee on Political Education $49,606
Citizens Action of Wisconsin $45,691
Progress North $44,331
AFT-Wisconsin (American Federation of Teachers) $18,612
Rise, Inc. $15,373
Organizing Empowerment PAC $14,000
Rising Leaders PAC $10,000
Democratic Party of Wisconsin $5,560
Gun Rights America $4,701
Wisconsin Right to Life PAC $1,360
TOTAL $93,006,147

 

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Building Strong Local Economies, One Small Business At A Time

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 30 November 2022
in Wisconsin

business-small-openSenator Smith writes about his experience as a business owner, the importance of shopping local for the holiday season, and Wisconsin’s work to lead the nation for utilizing federal relief funds to support small businesses.


BRUNSWICK, WI - I guess you can call me a professional window shopper. For years I worked alongside my father, who founded our window cleaning company in 1954. One of the highlights for me was cleaning storefront windows. It was wonderful to see the unique displays and the twinkling, inviting lights, especially during the holidays.

Small businesses are the backbone of our communities, and I believe the strongest economic driver for local communities is entrepreneurship. One of the highlights of my time in the State Senate has been working with local business owners throughout the 31st Senate District.

Over the last couple of decades, we’ve seen an amazing resurgence in small home-grown businesses. Flourishing main streets that had once been written off are revitalizing, with people walking the sidewalks, enjoying the day and invigorating the local economy.

businesses-micro-ethnically-diverseThe owners of our local businesses deserve our support so they can continue to contribute to the quality of life in our neighborhoods. The COVID-19 pandemic was hard on our small businesses, and their continued success is crucial to not only our economic recovery but also to the character and uniqueness of our region.

In the wake of the pandemic, Governor Evers and his administration did a great job providing support to small businesses with a multifaceted approach focused on aiding local mom-and-pop shops. In fact, Governor Evers used more of Wisconsin’s share of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for business support after the pandemic than any other state according to the Center on Budget Relief and Policy Priorities. From investing in infrastructure to distributing grants directly to small businesses, these investments enabled Wisconsin’s economy to come back stronger as we venture out into a post-pandemic world.

We can and should continue this work by supporting infrastructure improvements to make it easier to succeed as a small business in our rural areas. Investments like broadband and road repair provide continuing benefits that help existing business owners and encourage others to pursue their dreams of starting their own companies.

Every year around the holidays, I encourage folks to shop at our local businesses. It’s a nice feeling to know that your dollars are staying here in western Wisconsin, supporting the shops and restaurants that are owned by your hardworking neighbors and their families.

Whether it’s a charming boutique or a unique local restaurant, our communities’ small businesses provide our main streets with a character and charm that can’t be found at chain retailers and shopping malls. When you’re shopping for singular gifts, you can’t beat the handmade jewelry, artwork and home goods that are produced right here in western Wisconsin.

For loved ones that prefer experiences to physical gifts, it’s never been easier to pick up gift cards to local restaurants, breweries and wineries. It’s not just your corner tavern anymore – an increasing amount of microbreweries and local wineries have found success in our part of the state. Encouraging your friends and family to treat themselves can sometimes be the greatest gift of all.

jeff-smithAs someone who worked, managed and owned a small business for most of my life, I can tell you the work is hard, but the reward is great. Small businesses develop the neighborhoods they serve and help folks form lasting bonds. Many of my lifelong friendships grew out of relationships with coworkers and clients. That’s the spirit of local business.

You can share in that special feeling when you visit local businesses in your community. Take your time to get to know the people who work there. Listen to their stories. It’s worth it, and you’ll come away with a new appreciation of the vibrancy and resiliency of your neighbors.

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Giving thanks for pro-democracy prospects here in Wis.

Posted by Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Matt Rothschild is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a
User is currently offline
on Saturday, 26 November 2022
in Wisconsin

thanksgiving-family-dinnerMatt Rothschild of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign is thankful for 3 things in 2022 as far as the pro-democracy prospects go here in Wisconsin.


MADISON - On this Thanksgiving weekend, I’ve got three things to be thankful for, as far as the pro-democracy prospects go here in Wisconsin.

First, I’m thankful that Gov. Evers is still our governor, and that his veto pen still works. Robin Vos’s veto-proof majority failed to materialize in the Assembly, so Evers can still do what he does best: Blocking bills that would curb our freedom to vote, or blocking bills that would destroy our public schools, or damage our public lands, or deprive women of their most basic freedom to make their own decisions regarding their health care.

Second, I’m thankful for Law Forward, the great pro-democracy law firm that’s been around for a just a couple years but is already changing the legal landscape in Wisconsin in our favor. This group, founded by Jeff Mandell and Doug Poland and initially just with the amazing Mel Barnes as staff counsel, acts not only as a much-needed counterweight to the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty. It also pushes for fair maps, defends our freedom to vote, and demands accountability for those who violate our democracy. More than any other group in Wisconsin, Law Forward has demanded that the false electors in Wisconsin be investigated, and the firm has filed a civil suit against them, as well -- the first of its kind in the nation.

And third, I’m thankful for Civic Media, the new progressive radio network that is buying up stations all across Wisconsin not only to counter the dominance of rightwing radio but also to build civil dialogue at the local level, both of which we’ve been desperately needing. Growing out of “Devil Radio,” the flagship station in Madison founded by the irrepressible Michael Crute, it is now expanding rapidly, with the vision and resources of Sage Weil. Now with stations not only in Madison and Waukesha, but also in Amery, Richland Center, Wisconsin Rapids, and Wausau, with more to come, Civic Media is changing the sound of talk radio in Wisconsin, and it’s changing the politics of our state for the better.

So I’m thankful, this Thanksgiving weekend, and I hope you are, too.


matt-rothschild-2018Best,

Matt Rothschild
Executive Director
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New Energy Efficiency Incentives Abound

Posted by Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, State Senator District 31
Jeff Smith, Senator District 31 (D - Eau Claire)
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 23 November 2022
in Wisconsin

wi-farm-winterAs the weather gets colder, heating costs are rising. Sen. Smith writes about the many state and federal programs that are in place to help Wisconsin residents with heating bills and energy efficiency improvements.


BRUNSWICK, WI - This time of the year leaves most of us dreading to see our heating bills, but this year we have new options to afford our bills and better incentives to make home improvements that will lower our bills going forward.

Last month the U.S. Energy Information Administration released an important warning about higher than expected energy costs this winter. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) forecasts temperatures this winter to be colder than last winter, which will contribute to heating fuel consumption and demand.

In the Midwest, where well over half of households use natural gas to heat their home, costs are estimated to increase by 33%. For electricity, the increase in cost is somewhat less, but still significant, projected at around 10%. WEC Energy Group released an estimate that electric heating prices per household may go up an average of $20 to $30 a month.

home_heatingEstablished by the federal government in 1991, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) annually helps many families afford the cost of heating their home throughout the winter. LIHEAP helped more people than it ever had during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, when compared to need, the program is incredibly underfunded. LIHEAP estimates the program is only able to help one out of every six eligible households, leaving many families to find support on their own.

President Biden recently announced an additional investment of $4.5 billion through LIHEAP to help Americans with home heating costs. This comes about a month after Governor Tony Evers announced $13.6 million in funding to Wisconsin’s division of the program, WHEAP. This additional funding will absorb rising prices and rate hikes and help more families keep the heat on this winter.

As a member of the Governor’s Task Force on Climate Change, I have been serious about incorporating energy efficiency, reducing energy use and finding renewable solutions. Every decision we make for climate change today will save Wisconsin families money down the road. We’ve got to take a diversified approach to tackling climate change and think outside the box for ways we can maximize our energy use and resources.

This winter, consider taking steps to make your home more efficient. In addition to the Biden administration’s LIHEAP funding, the U.S. Department of Energy announced they would allocate an additional $9 billion in funding from the Inflation Reduction Act to support 1.6 million households nationwide to upgrade their homes and decrease energy bills.

Wisconsin’s version of the energy efficiency assistance program is called the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP). WAP can help low-income property owners improve energy efficiency and cut down on heating costs. Improvements such as improving insulation, sealing air leaks, installing energy-saving technology devices and repairing or replacing inefficient appliances can dramatically lower energy costs.

jeff-smithThe State of Wisconsin Division of Energy, Housing and Community Resources has a handy map to help you find resources for heating assistance in your county, whether you’re looking for payment relief or assistance to finance energy-efficiency improvements for your home: https://energyandhousing.wi.gov/Pages/Home.aspx. There you can find links to the online application portals for heating and rental assistance programs, as well as contact numbers for the WHEAP and weatherization agencies for each county.

Please check out these resources and learn more about how each of us can do our part to consume less energy while also saving money. An ounce of prevention now using these incredible incentives is worth a pound of cure when this time of year comes around again.

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