WED AM News: DOR boosts personal income growth projections for this year; Evers casts doubt on Fitzgerald’s call for new tax cuts

— The state Department of Revenue has boosted its projections for personal income growth over this year, while slightly downgrading expectations for 2020. 

That’s from the latest Wisconsin Economic Outlook report released by DOR, which projects personal income will increase 4.6 percent in 2019 and 4.2 percent in 2020. A report from earlier this year predicted 3.5 percent for this year and 4.4 percent for the next. 

DOR expects personal income to continue growing more than 4 percent annually through 2022, with wages acting as “an important driver” for growth until 2020. Property income is expected to slow personal income growth through this year, but then support growth over the next three years. 

Both the state and U.S. economies have continued to grow this year, despite what the DOR report calls “uncertainties clouding the forecast.” 

The report shows consumer confidence is close to an all-time high, though uncertainties surrounding trade have had a dampening effect over the past two months. 

And the state’s labor markets began to “show some wear” this year, after seven years of growth between 2012 and 2018. Employment in Wisconsin has grown at less than half the pace of the U.S. average over the past two years, with annual job gains in 2017 and 2018 down from the average between 2011 and 2016. 

DOR’s forecast predicts annual employment growth of 0.8 percent in the state for this year and the next, followed by a “significant slowdown” in 2021 and 2022 along national trends. 

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— Gov. Tony Evers is casting doubts on a call from Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald for a new round of tax cuts, saying it was a politically motivated suggestion as the Juneau Republican launches his campaign for the 5th CD.

Fitzgerald said on “UpFront” he’d like to pass another tax cut if January revenue estimates come in higher than previously expected.

Speaking at a luncheon yesterday, Evers said he’d consider such a proposal if it crossed his desk. But he said some things “give me pause” and he’d prefer to put aside any additional revenue in case the economy takes a downturn.

“A one-time increase in revenue cannot in perpetuity fund a tax cut. That’s not the way money works,” Evers said.

The guv added, “It’s questionable rhetoric. I guess it has something to do with election prospects for him.”

A Fitzgerald spokesman rejected the charge. He said the majority leader has been raising the prospects of a new tax cut since last month, before U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, announced he wouldn’t seek reelection.

“As leader, Scott Fitzgerald has always prioritized cutting taxes and has overseen billions of dollars in tax cuts,” said spokesman Alec Zimmerman. “It should be no surprise that he’s interested in the possibility of further tax cuts following revenue estimates early next year.”

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— Two Republican lawmakers are circulating legislation for co-sponsorship that would reimburse patients in cancer-related clinical trials for associated expenses. 

The bill is being circulated by Sen. Dale Kooyenga, R-Brookfield, and Rep. Bob Kulp, R-Stratford. According to their co-sponsorship memo, the bill would change the law such that reimbursement to patients in clinical cancer trials aren’t considered “undue inducement or coercive” enabling organizations to provide financial incentives for these kinds of trials. 

The lawmakers say “only a fraction” of patients willing to participate in a trial are able to enroll due to the cost. They claim recent national studies show patient households making less than $50,000 per year were about 30 percent less likely to join a clinical trial. 

 “If the only people participating in research are those who can afford paying the out-of-pocket costs, that could limit who can be recruited into a study,” Kooyenga said. “As lawmakers it’s important to do what we can to break down known barriers in order to have fully enrolled clinical trials with a diverse pool of patients.”

Kulp points out that patients are traveling farther for cancer clinical trials at specialty treatment facilities, noting out-of-pocket costs “can add up quickly, creating financial barriers to patient participation.” 

The bill is supported by The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, Marshfield Health Care System, the Medical College of Wisconsin and the UW School of Medicine and Public Health. 

The legislation hasn’t been introduced yet, but a spokesperson from Kooyenga’s office says it’s getting close to that point. In the memo, both legislators say they’re confident the bill has a good chance of passing. 

See the co-sponsorship memo: 

— Scientists at UW-Madison’s School of Medicine and Public Health have created a 3D model of human vocal cords  in hopes of improving treatment for voice-related disorders. 

Aside from enabling speech, the vocal folds also play a role in directing food and drink to the digestive tract and keeping them from entering the respiratory system. 

Smoking or other environmental factors such as allergies can cause chronic inflammation, but methods for studying related diseases and potential therapies are limited. That’s because taking cell samples from a person’s healthy vocal cord would cause “irreversible damage,” according to a release. 

This challenge drove Susan Thibeault — a professor of surgery, biomedical engineering and communicative disorders — to create a model that scientists can use to study “pathological changes” to the human voice. 

“We have developed a framework for developing clinically useful [vocal fold] tissue that can not only be used to model the mechanisms that cause a variety of voice disorders, but that can be used to test potential genetic and pharmacological therapies as well,” she said. 

Her team created the model using human stem cells. Results published recently in the journal Nature Communications show the stem cell-derived vocal fold tissue is “genetically and morphologically” similar to human vocal fold tissue. 

As a test, they exposed the tissue model to a 5 percent cigarette smoke extract for one week, which caused inflammation and “cellular abnormalities” associated with damage caused by smoking cigarettes. 

“In addition to the clinical and pharmacological applications, our results bring us an important step closer to one day being able to bioengineer vocal fold tissue for organ replacement,” Thibeault said.  

The study was funded by grants from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, which is part of the federal National Institutes of Health. 

See the full study: 

— U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher has announced $4.7 million in new federal funding is going toward improvements to Appleton International Airport. 

In a statement, Gallagher highlights the economic impact of the airport on the Appleton area and the surrounding region. Outagamie County Executive Thomas Nelson says the airport contributes $676 million each year to the local economy. 

“Past developments have allowed ATW to become one of the fastest growing airports in the country, and the funding secured today will allow them to continue to build on this momentum,” Gallagher said. “This is big news for Northeast Wisconsin, and I look forward to finding more ways we can support new businesses and high-paying aviation jobs in our community.” 

Gallagher is a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Aviation. A release from his office shows the funds are being awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation on behalf of the Federal Aviation Administration.

More than 26,000 square yards of new ramps and roads will be added, as well as other “site readiness improvements.” Airport Director Abe Weber says the new funding will more than double the ramp space at the airport’s Aviation Business Park. 

“Recent expansions by Gulfstream Aerospace and Air Wisconsin have really put Appleton on the map as a great location for aviation businesses,” Weber said. “This grant comes just in time, as we begin our next wave of expansion.” 

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<i>See these and other press releases: </i>

U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher: Secures grants to support Appleton International Airport upgrades

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