WISCONSIN NEWS ROUNDUP: Latest round of tax cuts hurting some cities throughout state
Wisconsin's latest round of tax cuts could make our state less open for business. W-S-A-U Radio in Wausau says local governments are getting less property tax money for tax incremental financing districts -- which provide additional revenues for things like streets that directly serve new-and-growing businesses within those districts. State Assembly Democrat Mandy Wright of Wausau says it's an unintended consequence from the tax cut bill passed in March, which included an extra 400-million dollars from a state budget surplus to replace property tax payments for technical colleges. The village of Weston, near Wausau, expects to lose 175-thousand dollars a year for streets-and-utilities which are designed to help business. Wausau itself expects to lose a little less, at 164-thousand. Wright voted against the tax cut package, as did all legislative Democrats except for two in the Assembly. But at least one Republican who voted for the measure is not happy, either. Senator Jerry Petrowski of Marathon says he likes the benefits for taxpayers, but he agrees the latest change is putting a squeeze on local governments. He says he'll ask the Legislative Audit Bureau to look into the matter, and find out how many people and financing districts are affected statewide.
If you think Wisconsinites don't love their cars anymore, you might be wrong as new state figures show that driving's on the upswing. The D-O-T estimates that motorists drove 59-and-a-half billion miles in the Badger State last year -- about 400-million more miles than in 2012. Officials say our growing population is one reason -- along with higher commercial traffic as the economy continues to rebound from the Great Recession. The travel estimates are based on statewide fuel consumption data, average vehicle gas mileage, and traffic counts. Officials said the average Wisconsinite traveled around 10-thousand-350 miles in a motor vehicle last year. Lots of us were driving less during the recession. Advocacy groups said it was because younger Americans preferred alternatives to driving -- like public transit and bike paths. Back then, the U-S Public Interest Research Group said Milwaukee area drivers had reduced their car usage by 20-percent from 2006-through-'11. Madison had an 18-percent traffic drop during that time.
A suburban Milwaukee firm is the one that discovered that a Russian cyber gang stole one-point-two billion e-mail address and password combinations. Alexander Holden, the founder of Hold Security in Mequon, explained the scheme yesterday at the Black Hat cyber-security conference in Las Vegas. It's not the first time that Holden and his company have uncovered a major security breach. Last October, they found that hackers remove encrypted credit card numbers and other personal information on almost three-million users of Adobe Systems -- which is best known for providing P-D-F files. The New York Times broke the story of Hold Security's latest discovery on Tuesday. This morning, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says Holden is getting heat for capitalizing on its discovery -- by introducing a new service to notify companies of data breaches. The paper also says Holden's college credentials are in question. His Linked-In page said he graduated from U-W Milwaukee with an engineering degree in 2001 -- but the school said he merely attended the school without graduating. Holden cited a technical issue and a misunderstanding -- and he would correct the information. The 39-year-old expert emigrated to Milwaukee from the former Soviet Union when he was 14.
Two years ago, Oneida County ended its consideration of mining in far northern Wisconsin. Now, a committee wants to know if it's legal to hear a proposal from a company interested in exploring zinc and other minerals at a site near Tripoli. The county's forestry panel voted 3-to-2 to ask the corporation counsel whether it's proper to invite an engineer from Carolina Gold Resources to make a presentation. Just the mere mention of the idea attracted a packed meeting room. It triggered an hour-long debate which brought back some of the emotions and issues -- many of which involved the county-owned site where the new proposal follows years of meetings over mining there. The site is about a mile from the Willow Flowage in the town of Lynne. Several mining opponents in the audience said the new proposal goes against the County Board's wishes from 2012. A couple of panel members said they should hear the company out. One mining opponent said the County Board missed opportunities to hear about the dangers of the practice -- and he said an open public debate was cut off prematurely.
Twenty challengers for Wisconsin legislative seats have told a libertarian group they would support a bill to let the state nullify federal gun regulations. The Campaign for Liberty, headed by Ron Paul, says on its Web site that the bill would protect Wisconsinites from what it calls "unconstitutional federal infringements on their Second Amendment rights." It would let the state invoke its Tenth Amendment rights to nullify certain gun laws -- and federal agents who try to enforce them would face unspecified penalties. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says it has become an issue in next week's Republican state Senate primary in Racine, where Jonathan Steitz is running against former Senator Van Wanggaard. The paper said Steitz does not believe the measure could nullify existing federal laws, but he does believe in state's rights and avoiding what he called "federal overreach." Wanggaard's camp said that candidate opposes further gun controls -- but he does not believe in having the state nullify federal laws. Two other G-O-P Senate candidates also told the Campaign for Liberty they'll support what the group calls the "Firearms Protection Act." Seventeen Wisconsin Assembly candidates did the same, including two Democrats.
Wisconsin's job creation agency is inviting businesses on a foreign trade mission this fall. The state's Economic Development Corporation will lead a trip to the Czech Republic, Poland, and Turkey November first-through-11th. Officials say companies could find new business opportunities in those countries in the fields of manufacturing, infra-structure, food, energy, aerospace, and medical equipment. The W-E-D-C says it will provide briefings on each nation, and would arrange one-on-one meetings for businesses to recruit foreign partners. The registration deadline is August 29th. More information is available on the Economic Development Corporation's Web site, accessible at Wisconsin-Dot-Gov.