IL Pension Reform Tied to “Grand Bargain” Fails

Education, Transportation, Workforce Development Top Walker’s WI Priorities

Gov. Scott Walker laid out his state biennial budget proposal Wednesday, calling for significant increases in education, transportation, tax relief and workforce development.

The $76.1 billion budget includes $592 million in tax and fee cuts, including a proposed tuition cut for University of Wisconsin System students.

Technical college students would see a tuition freeze over the biennium, paid for with $5 million in the budget. The budget would also give more money to Wisconsin Fast Forward, a worker training grant program.

Walker proposes putting more than $10 million in training for students. The Early College Credit Program would get $2.9 million to help students receive college credit while in high school. The Special Education Transitional Jobs Program would receive $7.6 million towards awards for school districts who help students with disabilities successfully obtain employment.

The budget allocates about $6.1 billion for transportation funding, including a $40 million increase in general transportation aids to counties and municipalities. Walker has long promised that his budget won’t raise gas taxes or vehicle registration fees to pay for roads.

To deal with a nearly $1 billion transportation budget gap, Walker has said he will be delaying work on about $500 million worth of ongoing major highway projects and borrowing about that much. Walker’s budget plan boosts funding for maintenance of state highways and transportation funding for local units of government. It calls for $500 million in transportation borrowing, down from $850 million in the last state budget.

The budget announcement follows the release of a sharply critical state audit of the Wisconsin Department of Transportation last month. It found the department dramatically underestimated the cost of major highway projects by failing to account for inflation and other factors, with costs on 16 projects ballooning by more than $3 billion since lawmakers approved them.

EPA Approves WI Options To Phosphorus Standards

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved Wisconsin’s plan to give manufacturers less-costly options for meeting strict phosphorous pollution standards.  A move supported by MWFPA.

Under the plan, paper, cheese and food manufacturers, in addition to water utilities, can apply to the WI Department of Natural Resources for a variance permit that allows them to postpone compliance with current standards for 10 years.  In exchange, they will have to pay fees to fund county projects that reduce runoff from non-point phosphorus discharges, which contribute the largest proportion of phosphorus in WI waters.

The WI Legislature passed legislation providing for the variance in 2014, but it needed EPA approval since it falls under the federal Clean Water Act.

Industries such as waste water treatment plants, paper mills and food and cheese producers have already cut their phosphorus discharges to nearly 100 percent of federal requirements. Achieving the last few percentage points of reduction would require industries to spend millions on new technology with the resulting reduction barely detectable.

Compliance would have been extremely expensive for the food industry and therefore the provision to allow a variance critical.  MWFPA filed comments with the DNR supporting the variance when the agency was seeking approval from EPA.

Phosphorus has long been recognized as the main factor in plant and algae growth. In December 2010, Wisconsin became one of the first states to adopt phosphorus water-quality standards for lakes, reservoirs, rivers and streams. DNR has implemented these standards in Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits since that time.

 

Walker Set To Deliver WI Budget Address Today

WI Gov. Scott Walker is set to deliver his budget address today at 4 p.m. in the state Capitol.  While Walker has already announced some of the proposals in his two-year spending plan, many details won’t be known for some time.  The Joint Finance Committee will begin its deliberations this spring before the Legislature adopts the budget, which could come in June or early July.  To watch the address live, go to: https://walker.wi.gov/wiworking

Leaders are made, they are not born.

Being a great leader means both managing tasks and functions well, but also understanding how to behave and “show up” as a leader. It can be hard to grasp for some, but it can be learned.

This is why MWFPA is again offering the Achieve Results Through Leadership seminar, which has been highly successful and highly reviewed by MWFPA members and industry peers.  It will be held February 14, 2017 at the Kalahari Resort & Convention Center in Wisconsin Dells, WI.

This workshop is intended for managers and supervisors who are responsible for the performance and productivity of employees and coworkers and will sharpen their management, supervision and leadership skills.

Cost:  $495
Cost covers course materials, continental breakfast and lunch.  Cost of lodging is not included in this fee.

For more information, see the seminar flyer. Download a copy of the registration form, or register online. For more information, contact Brian Deschane at:  brian.deschane@mwfpa.org or telephone 608.255.9946.

 

 

MWFPA Cosponsoring Conference On Markets For Natural Chemicals From Vegetable Production & Processing

A half-day conference Feb. 28 in Hancock, Wisconsin, cosponsored by MWFPA, will explore challenges and opportunities in extracting high-value, natural chemicals from vegetable processing residuals.

Five highly regarded speakers will discuss harvesting and processing techniques, the economics of value-added chemical extraction and purification, drivers for increased use of naturally occurring chemicals in non-food applications and the challenges that exist in bringing such chemicals to market.

The event, at the Heartland Farms Operations, Technology and Training Center, is hosted by the Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology, with sponsorship by the Midwest Food Products Association and the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association.

The conference is free but registration is required. Registration is online.

The conference invites participation from supply chain partners including:

  • potato and vegetable growers
  • entrepreneurs
  • fruit and vegetable processors
  • manufacturers and suppliers of specialist pre-processing and processing equipment
  • downstream users of naturally derived chemicals looking to differentiate their product lines

Read more on the conference website.