February 03, 2011The Internet has brought research, shopping, music and news into our homes, and made it available at our fingertips 24 hours a day.
People can also pay bills, watch live video of the legislature, and do their banking all using their home internet connection. In addition, tax filers can also use the Internet to file their tax returns online as a way to not only save money, but to get your refund money faster.
Since 1999, Wisconsin tax filers have had the option to pay their taxes online. In response to the growing demand for this convenience, and the cost-savings it provides, the Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR) has made filing a Wisconsin personal income tax return both easier and cheaper. The DOR expects about three million tax returns this year and more than 75 percent of those will be e-filed, making Wisconsin a national leader in e-filing.
January 20, 2011Back in the 1980s, Illinois Gov. James Thompson ordered the placement of a billboard on the Illinois-Wisconsin border, which read "Would the last business to leave Wisconsin please turn out the lights?" The action and the message sparked yet another rivalry between the two states, as Wisconsin's economy struggled and businesses considered moving to more tax-friendly states, such as Illinois.
But in an ironic twist, all of that may soon change as the state of Illinois recently enacted massive tax increases, which could send business to other states, including Wisconsin.
Following the November election and before newly-elected lawmakers could take office, the Illinois legislature narrowly adopted and the governor is expected to enact into law a series of tax hikes, along with new spending and borrowing increases.
Recent Legislators at Work
2011 state of the districtJanuary 27, 2011On Feb. 1, Gov. Scott Walker will deliver his first “State of the State” speech, an annual occasion of reflection on where the state has been, where it is now, and where it may be headed over the next two years. The speech generally remains focused on the positive, but also touches on the challenges facing Wisconsin. The last few years have been difficult for many, and the citizens of the state expect the new governor and legislature to respond proactively.The majority of people I represent in the 11th Senate District are encouraged by the recent changes in state government and what lies in store for the new session. The voters called for a new direction in government, and we intend to deliver on their mandate to create jobs, lower taxes, reduce government inefficiencies, and pave a new road to economic recovery. Meanwhile, the communities in the 11th Senate District remain poised to help re-energize Wisconsin’s new economy. Waukesha County continues as one of our fastest growing regions and undoubtedly is a primary economic engine of the state and is home to several national and internationally-known companies. But with a slow down in the economy, Waukesha County businesses are feeling the brunt of national and global economic pressures and doing all they can to keep pace in a changing world market. An expanding population is creating local road, highway, and other infrastructure concerns as well.
Kedzie announces assignments, new staffJanuary 06, 2011Madison — “The focus of the next legislative session will be stabilizing Wisconsin’s economy and putting people back to work — I look forward to my new committee assignments to aid in that effort,” said State Sen. Neal Kedzie (R-Elkhorn) as incoming Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald announced the remainder of the committee assignments for the 2011-12 session. Kedzie has already been named chair of the Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee, which he believes will have an impact on job growth in the private sector. In addition to that, Kedzie has been named vice-chair of the Senate Judiciary, Commerce, Utilities, and Government Operations Committee, and member of the Senate Agriculture, Forestry, and Higher Education Committee. Kedzie has served on all three committees to some capacity in previous legislative sessions. “There has been a great deal of discussion about reforming government, particularly agencies such as the Department of Natural Resources and Commerce Department. We have obligation to examine any sensible initiatives to streamline those departments and realign their attention to creating jobs, rather than creating more onerous regulations,” Kedzie said.
Property tax increases send chill to homeownersDecember 23, 2010As Wisconsin enters the deep freeze of winter and temperatures drop, one thing is unaffected and on the rise: your property taxes. At the end of the year, property owners are reminded of how much they are required to pay in order to fund their local municipality, school district, and technical college. We all know taxes are necessary to fund essential and vital programs, but taxpayers are drawing a line in the sand, and many want the Legislature to restore a meaningful property tax freeze next session. The nonpartisan Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance predicts net state property taxes, on average, will increase by about 4.9 percent in 2010, and school district taxes, on average, will increase by 3.4 percent. In Wisconsin, property owners account for nearly 4.5 percent of personal income, the highest in 14 years. As the economy remains soft, taxpayers are being pushed to their limit and are scaling back even more in order to pay their property taxes. I receive many phone calls, e-mails and letters from constituents who wish to remain in their home, but are finding it difficult to do so based on the tax burden. We must change that. Over the last few years, the Legislature adopted and the governor reluctantly approved a temporary, three year, levy limit on municipal spending. By controlling what a municipality could spend, the amount of money collected from property taxpayers was limited, and in some cases, reduced. The outgoing governor made no effort to make the levy limit permanent. In fact, in his last budget he dramatically relaxed the property tax constraint and gave local units of government more flexibility to raise tax levies. That flexibility has led to the increase of the property tax levy limit of 3.2 percent for municipalities, which is three times what they were 25 years ago — $2.37 billion versus $601 million.
Wisconsin works to protect consumersDecember 02, 2010If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Many of us have received an e-mail requesting a small amount of money be sent overseas in exchange for millions of dollars in return or a phone call awarding a supposed free vacation so long as your credit card information is provided. Even though most of us would not fall for such scams, many trusting individuals do. Your personal financial information should always be guarded, and the best way to do so is by knowing the facts. According to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) 13,648 fraud complaints were reported in Wisconsin in 2009. That number includes the approximately 323 reports of identity theft. Telemarketing (No Call List violations), landlord/tenant, telecommunications, satellite dish and home improvement were the most frequently reported fraud complaints. Although Wisconsin consumers ages 20 to 39 are most likely to be victims of identity theft, people of any age can be a target. In fact, child identity theft increased four percent in 2009.The state of Wisconsin is often wise to the ways in which some unscrupulous businesses may abuse the public to turn a quick profit. But for Wisconsinites who may fall prey to unprofessional — and often illegal — business tactics, knowing your rights as a consumer can give you the confidence you need to take action.
Group recognizes KedzieNovember 25, 2010The National Federation of Independent Business/Wisconsin recently presented State Sen. Neal Kedzie (R-Elkhorn) with the prestigious Guardian of Small Business Award in recognition of his work to defend free enterprise and grow Wisconsin’s small business economy.“Sen. Kedzie has been consistently on the right side of the issues that are most important to Wisconsin small businesses,” state director Bill G. Smith said. “Our members know that they can count on Neal to fight for their interests every day, and we are proud to honor his efforts with this award.”Kedzie accomplished 100 percent on NFIB’s Voting Record, which tracks the votes of every lawmaker on the issues most important to Wisconsin small businesses. The organization identified six bills during the past legislative session that had significant implications for its members. Kedzie voted in every case with the state’s small business operators.
recognizing veterans in WisconsinNovember 11, 2010Without question, the peace and prosperity we enjoy today is a direct result of veterans’ efforts to maintain and preserve our freedom. These brave men and women who have served, fought and died for our nation are the cornerstone of our free society. As we observe Veterans Day on Nov. 11, we must not forget the sacrifice they have made, in wartime and in peace, in the name of democracy. In Wisconsin, Nov. 5 to 11 is “Veterans Recognition Week,” take this opportunity to thank a service member.Over 894,879 Wisconsinites have served in the Armed Forces since statehood, many have given their lives. As members of the United States Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard, these brave individuals continue to serve and protect our country. The contributions and sacrifices of these men and women, who served during the Civil War and both World Wars all the way up to the current conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, have been vital in maintaining the freedoms and way of life enjoyed by the people of the United States.
Throw train under the busNovember 04, 2010In this day and age, whether we like it or not, the automobile is king. There are more than 3.7 million licensed drivers in Wisconsin, each who enjoy the convenience, ease of travel, and freedom provided by their vehicle. While owning a vehicle is perhaps considered a liability due the cost associated with it, the ability to move freely and at your own will is certainly an asset. Over the last year, a great deal of attention has been paid to Wisconsin’s transportation wants and needs, at all levels of government. Most notably, the discussion — and potential construction — of a commuter rail line between Madison and Milwaukee. For years, supporters of such a rail line have spoken at great length about the benefits of a rail system, while at the same time, chided those who believe a single-line, medium speed train will never replace the automobile. This debate has culminated into an agreement between the Jim Doyle and Barack Obama administrations to build a rail line regardless of cost, and irrespective of public opinion.
The Time is Now to HelpReaching a goal to helpNovember 04, 2010I am very happy to announce we have met the S.M. Fall 2010 $10,000 Matching Grant for a total of $20,000. Thank you for your generosity and compassion for your fellow Americans in desperate need. Next week we will show where every penny of the $20,000 was spent. I would like to share with you a story of how one family’s life was affected by The Time Is Now To Help. We have been helping our fellow creations for more than 20 years. In these years we have helped numerous people living in poverty, struggling with disabilities or illness. We do not often know the positive impact we have had on these individuals over the long term. The following story is a long lasting positive impact we helped make. A young mother was struggling through a difficult pregnancy. The responsibility of this child was too much for the father. He left with no regard for the mother or unborn child. The doctors told the mother, she would not carry the child to full term, there were too many complications. They told her the baby would most likely die during delivery or immediately after. If the baby did not die he would most likely have multiple disabilities. She was already full of love for the child that grew within her. The mother told the doctor and nurses, who were discouraging, that she was praying constantly for God’s intervention.
Maybe they didn’t get the memoOctober 14, 2010Even though the next governor will not unveil his proposed state budget until sometime in February, budget and finance officials in every state agency have already begun submitting their budget wish list. Keep in mind, Wisconsin will have a new governor in January, and certainly, whoever ends up in the Executive office will have their own ideas and perspective of the size and scope of state spending. Unfortunately, as Gov. Jim Doyle leaves office, he also leaves the state with yet another multibillion dollar budget deficit, which must be dealt with by the next governor and Legislature. I believe the upcoming budget cycle may be one of the most challenging, as these runaway deficits must come to an end. That means additional cuts will be in order, and very few — if any — state programs or agencies will be spared from the budget chopping block. Earlier this summer, the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau issued a dire memo to lawmakers regarding the state’s current and projected financial status, one which members on both sides of the aisle should take to heart. The Bureau anticipates a budget deficit of $2.5 billion on day one next year, with the potential for that number to go higher, depending on consumer spending and other economic trends. No matter how it’s read, the news is not good. But looking at the recent budget requests made by a number of state agencies, I don’t believe they got that memo.