Child Tax Credit Applications Open
Wisconsin residents with children below the age of 18 can apply for a one-time, $100 tax credit. The credit comes at a cost of about $130 million, and at a time when Gov. Scott Walker is gearing up for his re-election bid. Parents and guardians have from May 15 to July 2 to apply for the rebate. Caregivers are eligible for the $100 tax credit for every child they have living in their home under the age of 18 as of Dec. 31, 2017. They can apply online or over the phone through the state Department of Revenue. Along with the child tax credit, Walker used his veto power to expand the late-summer sales tax holiday from two days to five days.
Democrats have criticized Walker’s move, saying it was politically motivated. Assembly Minority Leader Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, said there are better ways to spend this money.
“And of course with $130 million we could have fixed lead pipes,” he said. “We could have tested all the rape kits that are sitting around. We could have expanded rural broadband, or we could have kept our budget intact given that we face a pretty significant structural deficit heading into the next year.”
Hintz said this shows Walker is trying to gain favor with voters heading into the election in November.
Microplastic Concentration High in Apostle Islands
A recent study of 35 national parks found the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore had the highest concentration of microplastics. The National Park Service teamed up with South Carolina’s Clemson University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Debris Program in 2015 for the two-year study. Park service staff and volunteers collected samples from 37 coastal beaches, said the study’s lead author Stefanie Whitmire, research scientist with the Baruch Institute of Coastal Ecology and Forest Science at Clemson University.
“There were some areas that were a lot higher like the Apostle Islands, which actually had the highest load of microplastics of any of our sites,” said Whitmire. “The next highest sites were in the Pacific Islands in Hawaii.”
Whitmire noted she didn’t find a correlation between the number of microplastics and more densely populated areas.
“One of the reasons we try to correlate it to urban areas is because we think with higher population densities and more people, more plastic use, you’d think those numbers would be higher,” she said. “But, with this study, I didn’t find the correlation between how close these parks were to urban centers or how close they were to the nearest river.”
Microplastic fibers made up about 97 percent of the samples collected at the 35 national parks. The fibers tend to originate from sources like clothing, deteriorating nets or broken fishing lines. Whitmire said local conditions rather than a beach’s proximity to highly populated areas seem to have a larger influence on concentrations of microplastics.
Walker Announces Preservation Initiative
Gov. Scott Walker is asking the state Natural Resources Board to quickly approve a land easement of nearly 21,000 acres in Sawyer County. Walker made the surprise announcement May 11 at the Wisconsin Conservation Congress Convention in Green Bay.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the state would purchase the land from Northwoods ATP – a European firm that acquired the property in 2009 – for $7.2 million using funding from the current fiscal year’s Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program.
Northwoods ATP would also create a $515,000 endowment, run by a third-party, to maintain roadways on the property at a “baseline” condition to help ensure the roads are maintained in usable condition for the public, according to the DNR.
Walker has sold thousands of acres of state land as governor, but he insisted the proposed easement is not a reversal of his political philosophy.
The Natural Resources Board is expected to act on the Sawyer County proposal at its meeting Wednesday, May 23. State lawmakers could review the plan this summer.
Eminent Domain Invoked for Foxconn Land
A development committee in Racine County has passed a land use plan to help make way for the Foxconn Technology Group manufacturing facility being built there.
The Community Development Authority in the Village of Mount Pleasant has given its okay to a proposal covering about 2,900 acres. The plan would help the village use powers of eminent domain to obtain property from several residents who still own land Foxconn wants for its huge proposed complex.
The Community Development Authority voted 6-1 for the plan. The only opponent was Matthew Cramer. He said the plan sets a bad precedent because it could help the village use powers of eminent domain to acquire land from unwilling sellers.
“This is an abuse of power because it forces selling of property against the will of owners who hold ownership, right and legal. It is exercising a concept that land ownership means nothing, land only belongs to you until the government sees a better use, whether that better use is public, or in this case, private and for-profit,” Cramer said.
Erik Olsen, a Madison attorney representing some of the landowners, said a recent ruling against the residents in federal court will be appealed.
Vukmir Gets Endorsement at GOP Convention
State Sen. Leah Vukmir has won the state Republican Party’s endorsement in the GOP primary for one of Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate seats.
Delegates at the Republican Party of Wisconsin convention May 12 in Milwaukee voted to give the party’s official support to Vukmir rather than her opponent, former Marine Kevin Nicholson. Vukmir received roughly 73 percent of delegates’ votes, 60 percent is required to earn the party endorsement.
“Leah Vukmir is exactly the kind of U.S. senator that we want from Wisconsin,” said former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, who spoke in support of the senator at the convention.
“It will take outsiders to push back on this political aristocracy in Washington,” Nicholson said in his convention speech.
In 2010, the state party’s endorsement was beneficial to Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, who went on to defeat incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold.
Vukmir and Nicholson will face each other in August’s partisan primary. The winner of that race will face Baldwin in November.
Milwaukee County Considers Marijuana
Milwaukee County supervisors will vote this month on whether to include a question on legalizing marijuana on the November ballot. The judiciary committee held a public hearing this week where they heard from supporters. If approved, the yes-or-no question would appear on the November ballot, asking if people favor legalization for those more than 21.
Most people at a public hearing were in favor of marijuana legalization. They cited potential medical and economic benefits. Others, like Kyle Puckhaber said current laws are causing harm.
“We are putting so many people in prison for nonviolent crimes and they’re torn away from their families when we could legalize marijuana and spend the tax dollars to do something more productive like improve our education system,” he said.
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