In a Wisconsin Editorial Roundup on April 23 about the 2018 Wisconsin legislative session, The Associated Press reported erroneously that a provision in the state budget sets aside $2.5 million to study tolling. That provision actually was vetoed.
A corrected version of the story is below:
Excerpts from recent Wisconsin editorials
Excerpts from recent Wisconsin editorials
By The Associated Press
Wisconsin State Journal, April 22
Careful, governor, or your veto power will be clipped again
Thank goodness governors no longer have the power to stitch together words and numbers from across pages of the state budget with their veto pens.
Wisconsin voters wisely banned the "Frankenstein veto" in 2008, which had allowed governors to write new law from scratch.
And before that, in 1990, voters prohibited governors from vetoing around individual letters to spell new works, the so-called "Vanna White veto," named after the woman who turned letters on the television game show "Wheel of Fortune."
Yet as Gov. Scott Walker showed last week, Wisconsin's chief executive can still play games with his remaining and considerable veto power. Wisconsin governors can still cross out individual words from single sentences of spending bills.
So Gov. Walker last week crossed the words "2-day" and "Saturday" out of a sentence in a bill creating a sales-tax holiday for school supplies. As a result, the new sentence he signed into law expanded the window for shoppers to avoid paying taxes on back-to-school purchases from two days to five days in early August. His action also increased the cost of the bill by $3 million to an estimated $14.5 million in lost tax collections.
Vetoes are supposed to block or reduce legislative action. They're not supposed to expand or increase the cost of what the Legislature sends to the governor's desk.
So last week's veto is troubling, even if its results are modest, compared to past veto abuses by previous governors.
Gov. Walker last fall also struck the word "not" out of a single sentence in the state budget to change the intentions of the Legislature. Lawmakers had instructed the state Audit Bureau not to do an audit of the University of Wisconsin System during certain fiscal years. By crossing out the word "not," an audit was suddenly required.
Mostly, though, with a Republican-run Legislature approving the bulk of the Republican governor's agenda, Walker has wielded his veto powers responsibly.
So don't expect another push anytime soon to further reduce the power of Wisconsin's veto pen. Some Democrats objected to the governor's priorities last week in expanding a sales-tax holiday. But little if any complaints were made about the governor's veto technique.
That could change in future budget cycles if Wisconsin's governor — be it Scott Walker or someone else — dramatically carves up bills in ways that expand, rather than reduce, spending. Lawmakers also might restart veto reform if a governor plays games with the wording of sentences to blatantly undermine the Legislature's authority in significant ways.
Gov. Walker's latest veto also should be a reminder to top lawmakers that, if they want to protect their priorities and power to legislate, they should employ two simple techniques.
First, write short sentences. That leaves less room for mischief. Second, avoid using the word "not," which can easily be crossed out to change meaning.
A powerful veto pen can help stop waste, save money and restrain the expansion of government. But Wisconsin citizens still expect a clean process that respects good government principles.
Careful, governor, or your veto power will be clipped again
The Capital Times, April 19
Barbara Bush and Vel Phillips made our country a better place
We lost two outstanding Americans this week — nationally, former first lady Barbara Bush, and here in Wisconsin, the trailblazing civil rights champion Vel Phillips.
Mrs. Bush was the wife of a former president and the mother of another, yet despite the rough and tumble of the politics that surrounded her, she gained the admiration of Americans of all political persuasions. Oh, she could speak her mind — and did so when presidential candidate Donald Trump made a personal attack on her son Jeb.
"He's said terrible things about women, terrible things about the military," she said of Trump in a CNN interview. "I don't understand why people are for him."
But while she would occasionally speak her mind, Barbara Bush remained mostly above the fray. She was dignified, engaged and a humanitarian, leading efforts to promote literacy and long promoting civil rights and representing to the world what America is really all about.
"My dear mother has passed on at age 92. Laura, (daughters) Barbara, Jenna, and I are sad, but our souls are settled because we know hers was," her son and former President George W. Bush said on her death. "Barbara Bush was a fabulous first lady and a woman unlike any other who brought levity, love, and literacy to millions. To us, she was so much more. Mom kept us on our toes and kept us laughing until the end. I'm a lucky man that Barbara Bush was my mother. Our family will miss her dearly, and we thank you all for your prayers and good wishes."
Our sentiments exactly.
Wisconsin's Vel Phillips became an American icon in a different way. In an interview with Cap Times reporter Jessie Opoien in 2014 when she was honored with a distinguished UW alumni award, she recalled that as a black student back in the late '40s and early '50s she wasn't allowed to eat in the Memorial Union's Rathskeller.
Perhaps that was what propelled her to achieve an incredible number of firsts during a career that focused on helping make Wisconsin a better place.
She became the first African-American woman to graduate from the UW Law School, the first woman and first African-American to be elected to the Milwaukee City Council, the first to be elected a Milwaukee County judge and the first to be elected to statewide office, secretary of state in 1978.
She spent her life pushing for open housing, marching for civil rights and advocating for the poor and those who experienced discrimination. On more than one occasion she wound up being arrested. She was a friend of Martin Luther King Jr. and Thurgood Marshall and corresponded with John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter.
Her remarkable career was captured in a touching documentary — "Vel Phillips: Dream Big Dreams" — produced by Wisconsin Public Television in 2015, which is still being shown in schools and at community gatherings throughout the state.
Vel Phillips touched thousands of lives during her 94 years on earth. She was a true pioneer and like Barbara Bush, a symbol of what's good in our society.
We're going to miss these two remarkable women.
The Daily Reporter, Milwaukee, April 20
What the Legislature did (and didn't do) this session
As could perhaps be expected in an industry that both comes under strict regulation and works regularly on government projects, construction companies rarely see a legislative session come and go in Madison without there being a flurry of new laws that affect their business.
The past two years have been no exception. Here's a partial list of legislation — arranged by subject matter— that lawmakers got done this year, as well as a few priorities that remain on their to-do lists:
Referendums —The state budget contains a provision allowing school referendums to be held only on primary or general-election days. Proponents of this change argue it will ensure that referendums, which are often used to authorize multi-million-dollar building projects, are held at times when turnout can be expected to be high.
Energy-efficiency projects — A separate budget provision eliminated school districts' authority to forgo a referendum when they wanted to exceed their state-imposed revenue caps to pay for energy-efficiency projects. Now schools have to get voters' approval for such projects.
School safety — A week after a shooting rampage left 17 dead at a high school in Parkland, Florida, lawmakers put forward legislation meant to make Wisconsin schools safer. The resulting law sets aside $100 million for safety improvements.
School 'to do'
Bidding requirements — With prevailing wages repealed and right-to-work adopted in Wisconsin, the hottest question in the industry in coming years is likely to be whether schools should be subject to bidding requirements. Various big contractors and industry groups successfully fought school-bidding legislation this year. But that doesn't mean it won't be back.
State bidding thresholds — A new law raises the dollar value threshold that determines when a state project must be let out using the single-prime delivery method. Formerly $185,000, the threshold is now set at $300,000.
Project-labor agreements — Another new law prohibits local governments from using mandatory project-labor agreements in a way that critics contended directed public work to union companies. These sorts of agreements often require companies — both union and non-union — to abide by union terms of employment.
Bidding 'to do'
Local bidding requirements — The same bill that would have subjected schools to bidding requirements would have also doubled the bidding threshold for local projects, taking it from $25,000 to $50,000. It's been a while since the state has raised this threshold and some sort of change is probably overdue.
Budget — After much debate, lawmakers passed a transportation budget that held the line on the state's gas tax and registration fees and authorized $400 million worth of new borrowing over two years, all the while delaying only a few projects. This was accomplished in part by imposing a $75-a-year fee on hybrid vehicles and $100-a-year fee on electrical vehicles.
Federal-aid "swap" — This proposal, which has been batted around in more than one legislative session, would have the Wisconsin Department of Transportation concentrate federal dollars as much as possible into state, rather than local, road projects. The goal is to prevent local governments from being subject to Davis-Bacon wage requirements, which some argue inflate project costs.
Tolling — Lawmakers have long said tolling could provide an alternative to the state's reliance on gas taxes to generate money for roads. A provision in the state budget would have set aside $2.5 million to study tolling, but that was vetoed.
Interstate 94 East-West — After the reconstruction of both the Marquette and Zoo interchanges, drivers have been left with a real bottleneck along the stretch of Interstate 94 running between 16th and 70th streets. WisDOT asked the federal government in September to rescind its record of decision approving a widening of that stretch after money for that work was not added to the state budget. But business groups are likely to keep pushing for the project, arguing it's vital to state commerce.
Personal-property taxes — Starting this year, a budget provision exempts contractors from having to pay so-called personal-property taxes on virtually any piece of construction equipment. The change is expected to save contractors and other sorts of businesses about $75 million a year in total.
Sales and use taxes — A separate budget provision makes sales and use taxes no longer apply to materials bought for projects commissioned by technical colleges and University of Wisconsin campuses and extension offices. Still another provision extends to all types of construction contracts a tax exemption that had previously applied only to lump-sum contracts.
One-to-one apprentice ratios — Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill last month preventing more than one journeyman from ever being needed to oversee the work of any single apprentice entering the trades. Proponents argue this legislation will help combat the construction industry's persistent labor shortage.
High-school apprentices — With a separate bill signing, Walker enacted a law that will allow high-school seniors to take part in apprentice programs. The goal again is to bring more workers into the trades.
Local control 'dones'
Statewide employment standards — A law passed this session puts in place statewide rules for occupational licensing, overtime and other employment matters. It scraps local governments' ability to set minimum-wage requirements for public-works projects; prohibits local governments from exceeding the state's occupational-licensing requirements; and sets a statewide standard for regulations concerning employee scheduling, hours and overtime; among other things.
Development regulation — A separate law bars local governments from placing certain restrictions on development projects. Among other things, the bill bans local ordinances that prohibit contractors from working on weekends or from putting up banners on construction fencing.
Economic development 'done'
Foxconn — The $10 billion manufacturing plant the Taiwanese company is building in Mount Pleasant promises a lot of work for Wisconsin contractors and constructions workers (and likely some from Illinois.)
Economic development 'to do'
Something for the rest of the state — Because, you know, contractors in Rhinelander have to eat too.