THU AM News: Madison, Kenosha County on opposite ends of in-migration; Senate to take up amended version of Evers’ UI system modernization bill

— Madison’s economic growth has pushed the demand for housing to record numbers.  

Madison was one of the few metro areas that had the biggest gains in terms of in-migration due to a strong local economy, according to the latest Milken Rankings. The capital city jumped to No. 34 in 2021 from No. 93 in 2020. 

Madison entered 2021 with only about three weeks of residential inventory on hand in Dane County — far less in some neighborhoods, said Stark Company Realtors President David Stark. Demand has been extremely strong early in the year with most properties selling between a day or week, usually at or above the asking price and often with multiple offers.  

The median residential sale price rose about 6.5 percent in each of the past two years, now at $315,000 for a single-family home and condo combined.

Stark attributes the demand for housing to economic growth among millennials. Milken ranks Madison No. 10 for high-tech GDP from 2014-2019. 

Read the full story at 

— Gov. Tony Evers’ budget includes two new initiatives tied to health insurance.

One would put $1.8 million into studying the development of a state-administered public option, which would create a government-run health insurance agency that would provide coverage options alongside private companies. If implemented, Wisconsin would join only Washington in offering such an option. 

The Wisconsin Association of Health Plans said that it does not support a public plan as the state already ranks fifth in the country in health plan quality. 

“Wisconsin does not need a new government insurance system,” said Executive Director John Nygren. “Instead, State leaders should focus on improving what’s working and continue building on proven solutions to improve consumer affordability, such as the Wisconsin Healthcare Stability Plan.”

The stability plan is included in Evers’ proposals and aims to lower premiums for Wisconsinites by providing $200 million in each fiscal year to reinsure high-cost individuals across all health insurance exchanges.

“We need increased access and more affordable options for health care rather than increased red tape and more bureaucracy in coverage,” said Health Committee Chair Rep. Joe Sanfelippo, R-New Berlin. “I fail to see how a state-run health insurance agency is going to satisfy either of those needs.”

— Another provision would direct the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance to develop a plan that would offer premium subsidies by 2024 for some Wisconsinites enrolled in the Affordable Care Act’s marketplace. 

To qualify, individuals would have to make between 138 percent and 250 percent of the poverty level and be enrolled in a silver tier plan.

The federal poverty level is currently $26,500 for a family of four, and silver plans include cost-sharing reductions to lower the costs for those in the marketplace.

The vice chair of the Assembly Health Committee, Rep. Rob Summerfield, R-Bloomer, said the state plan would create disruption in the private market. He doesn’t see Republicans supporting that measure.

“That’s my biggest worry in all of these is the mess with the private insurance market and what are the ramifications,” he said.

Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, said the guv’s proposal shows “what is possible if we truly prioritize Wisconsin people and Wisconsin communities. 

“Governor Evers articulated a progressive plan to invest in Wisconsin’s public schools, increase access to affordable health care, spur economic development in every part of our state, and ensure our local government partners have the resources to respond to important needs close to home,” he said.

See more reaction to Evers’ health proposals in the latest Health Care Report:

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— Construction Business Group is supporting the “common sense” initiatives in Evers’ state budget proposal unveiled Tuesday.

CBG says the budget includes many critical construction-focused initiatives, such as reforms to help mitigate worker misclassification and wage theft in Wisconsin, dollars for renewable energy investments and plans to expand broadband internet to more rural areas across the state.

Worker misclassification is of vital importance in this budget cycle as each year, $200 million in tax revenue is lost due to worker misclassification and the resulting payroll and tax fraud, according to CBG.

Capturing back $200 million in taxes for Wisconsin requires proper oversight of businesses

operating in Wisconsin, including those in the construction industry, Executive Director Robb Kahl explained. The specific policy goals, which Evers is proposing in his budget, are based on the bipartisan Worker Misclassification Task Force’s recommendations.

“Proper oversight ensures all employers comply with existing state laws, creates a stronger balance sheet for the state and provides dignity and protection for all Wisconsin workers who simply want to be treated fairly and compensated for the work they perform,” he said. 

— The budget also includes critical funding for the I-94 East-West Corridor project, which won approval from CBG, the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce and the I-94 East-West Econ Connect coalition. 

MMAC government affairs Vice President Steve Bass, who is also the spokesperson for the coalition, said the corridor is a key component of a comprehensive, diversified, regional transportation network of highways, local roads, and public transit. 

“By increasing this vital economic artery’s safety and capacity, this project will benefit the city of Milwaukee, the region, and the entire state of Wisconsin,” Bass said. “We’re optimistic that as the legislature weighs in, bipartisan agreement will see this long-delayed project move forward at this crucial time.”

— The Senate will be on the floor today in special session to take up legislation stemming from Evers’ call to modernize the state’s Unemployment Insurance system.

The office of Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, said the chamber will convene at 10 a.m. on the bill, which the Finance Committee yesterday amended to add a Republican provision to provide businesses and others liability protections from COVID-19 lawsuits.

Meanwhile, Assembly Republicans said they’ve been told by leadership to keep Tuesday open.

The Legislature isn’t scheduled to be back on the floor in regular session until mid-March. Evers last month called the special session to take up the bill, which had sat dormant until yesterday.

— The amended UI bill wouldn’t provide the $5.3 million in state funds that Evers had requested to get the overhaul rolling.

Instead, the proposal would require the Department of Workforce Development to seek and exhaust federal funds for the project. The agency would also have to issue a request for proposal for the project within 30 days after the bill took effect.

DWD Secretary Amy Pechacek told the Finance Committee the 30-day window would be “extremely aggressive.” She said some states have taken a year for similar proposals and the administration thought it could shorten the process to six months.

“Certainly, we’d do our best to do this as quickly as possible, but also as prudently as possible so we don’t make mistakes,” she said.

JFC Co-chair Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, questioned why the agency hadn’t made more progress on the effort. He noted former DWD Secretary Caleb Frostman told lawmakers last spring the system was a problem. Frostman was pushed out of the job last fall over a lack of progress on the backlog in UI claims.

Pechacek said the agency began talking to vendors and others in 2019 about what it would need to modernize the system. Since then, it has continued to speak with others and is now ready to hire a consultant to assist with the process of inviting vendors to bid on the work. But she said addressing the claims backlog took precedence.

— DWD has taken the first step toward creating an emergency rule to waive the one-week waiting period for unemployment benefits.

The previous waiver created under 2019 Wisconsin Act 185 expired on Feb. 6.

Earlier this week, DWD published a scope statement in the Legislature’s administrative register. If and when the scope statement is approved, DWD can begin drafting the rule. The earliest a new rule could take effect is March 5.

The emergency rule is a temporary measure to offer relief to claimants who cannot wait a week for benefits. For employers, it ensures that 50 percent of first-week benefit payments are federally funded. Without a waiver in place, first-week unemployment benefits must be charged to or reimbursed by employers.

— Northern Wisconsin’s Town of Cable is receiving $250,000 to help redevelop the former Telemark Lodge and resort property into a premier recreation destination. 

The Idle Sites Redevelopment Grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. will support the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation in buying the more than 700-acre property, demolishing the old hotel, and begin improvements to the cross-country ski and mountain biking trails and establish a competition stadium area. The total project cost: $2.6 million.

“This grant is an outstanding example of public-private cooperation between the Town of Cable and the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation for local and regional development,” said Brett Rondeau, chairman of the Cable Town Board. “The ABSF redevelopment of Telemark is a major step forward for our community.”

The foundation has a long-term strategic plan to reposition the former resort into a hub of year-round outdoor activity and open additional miles of ski, bike and hiking trails, cementing northwestern Wisconsin as a leading outdoor recreation area in the state.

— U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and her Dem colleagues are pushing President Biden to prioritize dollars for community development initiatives in his upcoming budget proposal. 

The Community Development Block Grant program supports jobs, housing, infrastructure and public services. Congress provided additional CDBG funds last year as communities worked to respond to the spread of COVID-19.

“The CDBG program is one of the federal government’s most effective means to revitalize low-and moderate-income communities across the country,” said Baldwin, who serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee. “Now more than ever, we must prioritize federal funding for local community development, jobs and affordable housing for the millions of Americans struggling to get by.”

The program has created or retained over 100,000 jobs over the past five years nationwide. It has also provided assistance to community development corporations in Wisconsin. And CDBG has provided after-school programs and summer jobs for low-income kids.

See the letter from Senate Dems to Biden here: 


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– Ag Bills On the Mooooove 

– Baldwin Leads Push to Make More Farmers Eligible for PPP Loans 


– United Way and UW Credit Union launch $1.5M partnership to promote racial equity 


– Just A Few Labs Produce Snake Venom Used To Make Antivenom. One Is In Wisconsin 


– State Superintendent Candidate Deletes Account After Tweeting About Racial Slur


– Evers’ Budget Proposes Significant Investment To Address Climate Change, Protect Public Lands 


– Few Wisconsin borrowers took Fed’s Main Street loans. Very few. 


– Advocate Aurora opens new health center in Racine 


– Here are the startups picked for Eau Claire’s first seed accelerator 


– Evers Proposing Sweeping Changes To Juvenile Justice System


– Johnson Controls looking to cut $300 million in costs over 3 years 


– Turnout 7.2% for Wisconsin spring primary


– Developers plan to turn industrial site near Tosa Village into apartment development 

– Vassallo withdraws plan for 20-story apartment tower in Wauwatosa before vote 


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

– UW Credit Union: Invests $1.5 million in Madison and Milwaukee to address racial equity

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– Lowlands Group: Installs “Streetcar” on Lincoln Ave.

– Wisconsin Technology Council: Last call! EUA, Georgia-Pacific, Mead & Hunt join major firm list for March 17 tech summit