FRI AM News: Evers urges lawmakers to take action modernizing UI system; ‘WisBusiness: The Podcast’ features John Nygren, Wisconsin Association of Health Plans

— Gov. Tony Evers urged lawmakers to take immediate, bipartisan action on his proposal to modernize the state’s unemployment insurance system. 

On Jan. 13, the guv signed an executive order calling a special session for the Legislature to consider the fix. Evers’ plan to modernize the state’s unemployment system would give the Department of Workforce Development more than $5.3 million to immediately begin work on the task. Overall, the administration projects it would cost $90 million over 10 years to modernize the system. 

The GOP-run Legislature has yet to act, saying Evers could start the project with existing funds. But the guv argues that funding for the project over multiple state budgets is dependent on the Legislature’s approval. 

“My proposal to update our antiquated system to date has been met with the same continued inaction Wisconsinites have seen for years during previous administrations and more than a decades’ worth of state legislators that knew this system was outdated and failed to fix it,” Evers wrote. “I don’t care who gets the credit, I just want to get it done.”

The proposal uses the master lease program, which operates functionally similar to a home mortgage — allowing the state to begin upgrading the UI system while reducing up-front costs and committing funding through the upgrade to completion. 

Read the full story at 

— Evers has signed a new statewide public health emergency order and accompanying mask mandate. 

The order comes as Republicans in the Legislature voted to overturn the guv’s previous health emergency. Evers’ new public health order is effective immediately lasting 60 days with the mask mandate expiring on March 20.

John Nygren, the executive director of the Wisconsin Association of Health Plans, said the association has supported proper steps to stop the spread of COVID-19, including wearing masks. 

In the latest “WisBusiness: The Podcast” episode, the former Republican legislator said he thinks the health emergency issue in the Capitol is “bigger than just the mask mandate.”

“I think this is, from the legislative perspective, is about executive power,” Nygren said. “From our perspective … we’ve got people on both sides of all these different issues. I think the best thing for everybody in Wisconsin is for the governor and the legislative leadership is to sit down and come up with something that works for everyone.”

Evers indicated he planned to introduce Medicaid expansion again in his upcoming budget. Two years ago, Nygren and other GOP members on the Joint Finance Committee stripped out a string of policy proposals and a provision to accept federal money to expand Medicaid.

Nygren explained that the Wisconsin Association of Health Plans members are from across the spectrum, from Medicaid providers to commercial companies.

“Our perspective is that we want a competitive market, but we also want people that need access to health care to be able to get it,” he said. “It comes down to the choices that policymakers make if we do go to an expansion or if we don’t. The bottom line is the principles of competition, choice and access have to be there.”

Listen to the whole podcast, sponsored by UW-Madison: 

— Wisconsin will get more than $10 million for its part of a $573 million multi-state agreement with McKinsey & Company for “turbocharging” the opioid epidemic with Purdue Pharma and other opioid companies. 

Attorney General Josh Kaul was part of a coalition from 47 states and five U.S. territories in the agreement with McKinsey resolving investigations into the company’s role in working for opioid companies, helping promote their drugs and profiting from the opioid epidemic. 

“This resolution will result in millions of dollars going to fight the opioid epidemic in communities in Wisconsin,” Kaul said. “As this case shows, getting accountability can mean additional resources to help communities mitigate the epidemic. It can also deter the kind of misconduct that could lead to future epidemics. We will continue pursuing accountability from companies that fueled the opioid epidemic.”

The Department of Health Services will receive nearly $10.4 million from the multistate agreement for opioid remediation, to be paid over five years. Between 1999 and 2019, 9,344 Wisconsinites died from an opioid overdose.

See more in the latest Health Care Report:

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— The Senate Committee on Financial Institutions and Revenue approved an amendment to a Senate bill that will ensure Wisconsin businesses can deduct expenses paid for with revenue from the federal Paycheck Protection Program.

Without the amendment, authored by Sens. Rob Stafsholt, R-New Richmond and Roger Roth, R-Appleton, employers could face hundreds of millions of dollars in unexpected taxes.

The bill, SB 2, would need to be passed by both the Senate and Assembly before heading to Gov. Tony Evers’ desk to be signed into law.

“Wisconsin businesses were told they could receive forgivable and tax-free PPP loans to help them survive COVID-19 and subsequent government shutdowns,” said Cory Fish, legal affairs director at Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce. “We urge legislators and Gov. Evers to support SB 2 to fulfill the promise that these funds would be available tax-free to all recipients.”

— Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin projects football fans will consume over 20 million pounds of cheese while watching this year’s Super Bowl — enough to fill Tampa Bay’s Raymond James Stadium as if it were a cheeseboard. 

That may not surprise those in dairy retail. Cheese sales jumped 13 percent in 2020 nationwide, with Wisconsin specialty cheese sales helping to fuel that. Wisconsin Cheese Mart owner Ken McNulty said the store is planning to triple its fulfillment capacity in the coming months after seeing a huge increase in online sales. 

“Many of our state’s cheesemakers have added extra shifts and secured extra space to accommodate all the orders — not to mention adapt their businesses to accommodate the sudden jump in online cheese orders from consumers across the country,” said Kirk Scott, senior vice president of Dairy Company Communications at Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin.

Wisconsin cheesemakers bear a license to make cheese — a requirement that is unique only to Wisconsin. The elite few also go through over 10 years of rigorous hands-on training to become Wisconsin Master Cheesemakers, a title only given to just over 90 cheesemakers in the 27 years since the program began.

— Defense contractor Oshkosh Corp. plans to make a $25 million private investment in Microvast, a global provider of battery technologies for commercial and specialty electric vehicles. 

Oshkosh and Microvast also entered into a joint development agreement highlighting future battery collaboration and integration. The relationship bolsters Oshkosh’s existing technology strategy to increase the development of advanced products to meet demand. 

“Our strategic investment in Microvast is an excellent addition to Oshkosh’s electrification focus and established partnerships,” said President and COO John Pfeifer. “These partnerships, combined with Oshkosh’s highly-capable product development team, support our expanding leadership with technology-enabled products for the markets we serve.”

Oshkosh, a Fortune 500 company with over 15,000 employees and about $7.7 billion in revenue, is the largest manufacturer in Wisconsin. 

— WEC Energy Group reported a strong 2020 net income of $1.2 billion compared to $1.13 billion in 2019.

For the fourth quarter of 2020, the utility company recorded a net income of $239 million compared to $243.9 million for the fourth quarter of 2019.

Executive Chairman Gale Klappa said the momentum should accelerate in 2021 as WEC executes its ESG Progress Plan — investing in efficiency, sustainability and growth. He expects 2021 earnings to increase in line with WEC’s goal of a 5-7 percent increase annually. 

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# UW-Madison faces $320 million pandemic loss by June 

# Assembly Republicans tell Gov. Evers they’re open to limited mask requirements 

# Report: Closed Casinos Mean Financial Struggles For Tribes, Drop In Payments To State



– Wisconsin Dairy Groups Send Mixed Signals To White House On Trade Dispute With Canada 

– Class III Milk Price Announced at $16.04 for December 


– Covid-19 caused $30M+ revenue loss for Milwaukee in 2020 


– Marquette University gifted $31 million for College of Nursing 


– Wisconsin Women in Conservation: New Initiative Champions Collaborative Learning 


– PPP lending in Wisconsin cracks $1 billion 


– Entrepreneurial couple gifts $1M to UW-River Falls to support SciTech capital project 


– Wisconsin Assembly approves revised resolution to throw out mask mandate


– Property tax delinquencies down for Milwaukee, but up countywide 


– Gov. Tony Evers Issues New Mask Mandate Following Lawmakers’ Repeal


– Kohl’s preliminary Q4 results show 11% drop in sales, earnings improvement expected 


– Green Bay Packers Foundation grants to support virtual learning programs at Milwaukee nonprofits 


– Milwaukee’s Health Payment Systems to expand with recent growth investment 


– City of Milwaukee’s capacity update may make it easier for museums to reopen 


– State Lawmakers Backing Effort to Resume Keystone Pipeline 


– Some glitzier cities get ink, but Madison, Milwaukee gaining tech workers 

– Wisconsin well-positioned to build on “work-from-home” trends 


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

– Dept. of Children and Families: Wisconsin shares rate to increase for remainder of 2021 Fiscal Year

– Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce: Applauds lawmakers for moving forward legislation to protect businesses from PPP Taxes

– Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health: Staff to participate in Mission Fuel

– UW System: Adopts universal medical withdrawal policy