Walker seeks child tax credits, welfare reform, state-level health stabilization as part of 'Ambitious Agenda for 2018'Submitted: 01/24/2018
Story By Ben Meyer

Walker seeks child tax credits, welfare reform, state-level health stabilization as part of 'Ambitious Agenda for 2018'
MADISON - Gov. Scott Walker declared Wisconsin "historically strong" in a lengthy election-year State of the State address on Wednesday in Madison.

His address was heavy on celebrating accomplishments, but also pushed his "Ambitious Agenda for 2018."

Walker compared conditions in the state in 2010, the year before he took office, to those in 2018 a total of 16 times in the speech, trying to highlight progress during his administration.

Walker's to-do list for 2018 kicked off with a request for another tax cut.

He's hoping to give families a tax credit of $100 per child under 18 living at home. Walker has repeatedly drawn attention to his elimination of the state property tax and his lowering of state income taxes during his governorship.

"As promised, when we have a surplus, we will give it back to you, the hardworking taxpayers. You see, this is your reform dividend. You deserve it," he said in the speech.

"When you look at $100, what does that really buy?" Rep. Beth Meyers (D-Bayfield) retorted after the address. "It may not put a child in a complete outfit for a day of school. It may not buy a winter jacket for a child in northern Wisconsin."

Meanwhile, Walker wants people on welfare in Wisconsin and across the state to pass drug tests and comply with work requirements to keep getting their welfare checks.

"It's a way to get this population that has the challenges of drug abuse and drug addiction--get to them, get them healthy, and get them productive and happy," said Rep. Mary Felzkowski (R-Tomahawk), a supporter of the plan.

Democrats were quick to criticize the move.

"We don't have to assume that there are so many of them that we have to have a whole program that will address the deadbeats," said Sen. Janet Bewley (D-Delta). "They're not there."

In addition to drug testing and work requirements, Walker added another stipulation.

"We also propose putting asset limits on public assistance, so people with giant mansions and fancy cars don't get welfare checks while hardworking taxpayers like you have to pay the bills," he said.

Republicans claim another Walker proposal, his Health Care Stability Plan, is an outgrowth of instability in the federal government.

"The frustration is that Washington can't get anything done," said Rep. Rob Swearingen (R-Rhinelander). "We are trying to work around what is not being done in Washington, and now, the state of Wisconsin is going to make their own initiative."

Walker's plan would guarantee coverage for people with preexisting conditions, attempt to make SeniorCare more permanent, and help keep premiums low.

"Some of his suggestions were right off of the Democratic playbook," Bewley countered. "Some of the best ideas have been put forward by Democrats, including Obama, with Obamacare, and I think [Walker] is sort of following in that tradition."

In other issues important to northern Wisconsin, Walker called on the legislature to quickly pass his plan to close Lincoln Hills as a youth prison. The state would build new regional youth prisons and convert Lincoln Hills to an adult prison.

Walker also wants approval for a public school funding tweak that would help many local districts get more revenue.

"A good school equals a great life," he said in pushing the plan.

As a final highlight, Walker plans to seek approval for a $50 million Rural Economic Development Fund to help new and small businesses.

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RHINELANDER - Employees with AirPro Fan and Blower Co. in Rhinelander showed their neighborly spirit Saturday morning.

"We just felt there was such a need for right now," said Administrative assistant Lori Miller.

The company purchased food items to fill 500 bags from Trig's grocery and gave them away to community members in need from 10 a.m. until noon.

Airpro Fan and Blower Co. President Keith White said this gesture is simple and helps those with short term needs.

"We wanted to do something simply favorable and love our neighbors," said White

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RHINELANDER - Movie theaters across the country are shut down right now. At Rouman Cinema in Rhinelander, staff are still finding a way to put smiles on customers' faces.

Late Friday night, owner George Rouman decided to host a spontaneous curb-side popcorn sale. From 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, cars lined up to purchase a jumbo bag of movie theater popcorn and a candy of their choice for just $5.

"We're clearly very careful about how we're accepting the money," said Rouman. "People are very satisfied and they've been waiting for quite a long time, many of them."

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WAUSAU - Michelle Neathery thought soap would be a retirement hobby.

Now it's her full-time job.

"I started to decide making this more of a business, coming back, selling to the public," Neathery said.

Neathery started making scented soaps on the side in 2003 while working other full-time jobs.

But after the United Health Group eliminated her department a few weeks ago, Neathery began devoting even more time to Little Bull Falls Soap Works.

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According to a Facebook post from Minocqua Sandwich Company, on March 26, Minocqua Sandwich Company received an anonymous donation for $100 to buy sandwiches for the heroes at the Howard Young Hospital emergency room. 

Bad Bones BBQ also received a donation to provide $100 worth of BBQ to the Marshfield Clinic.

According to a Facebook post from Minocqua Sandwich Company, "Per Mar Security over on Highway 70, donated $200 to be used to buy sandwiches for people on the front lines. After that money was raised, folks within the Per Mar Security world, their friends, and family, raised another $400 amongst themselves to keep this idea going."

Minocqua Sandwich Company decided to give $100 worth of sandwiches or burritos a day to whomever is working during the COVID-19 pandemic until money runs out.

Owner Minocqua Sandwich Company Kirk Bangstad says he loves the generosity of the community.

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THREE LAKES - While schools across the state are closed down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, faculty and staff at the Three Lakes School District work hard to keep the student-body well-fed.

"We feed kids here," said Food Service Director Tina Halverson. "That's what I've done for 20 years. Now we're just doing it a little differently."

Staff deliver breakfasts and lunches to students around the district by bus.

"We have runners, we have packers, we have assemblers, we have extra helpers," said Halverson. "We have it down to a really good system right now."

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RHINELANDER - The owner of a Rhinelander t-shirt shop is reminding people to support local businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.

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RHINELANDER - Oneida County Health Department Director Linda Conlon confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in Oneida County. The individual is in their 20s with a known history of travel. According to Conlon, the patient has been compliant with instructions from health officials and is currently in isolation. 

We will have more details as they are made available by the county.

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