Monday, May 06, 2013

E-update From Rep. Jeff Mursau

     eUpdate – May 6, 2013
Claims for Jobless Benefits Drop in U.S.

The number of Americans filing new jobless benefits claims fell sharply last week to its lowest level since the early days of the 2007-09 recession, a sign the job market is still healing even though the economy remains weak. Other data on Thursday showed a narrowing of the U.S. trade gap in March, although drops in imports and exports offered warning signs over the strength of domestic and foreign demand.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 18,000 to a seasonally adjusted 324,000 last week, the Labor Department said. The claims report runs counter to a growing number of signals that economic activity softened in March and April, a phenomena economists have dubbed the spring swoon because it also happened in the previous two years.

The four-week average, a less volatile measure, plummeted 16,000 to 342,250, close to a five-year low. Applications are a proxy for layoffs. When they fall below 350,000, it is generally consistent with moderate hiring. But layoffs are only half the equation: Companies also need to be confident enough to add workers for job growth to pick up and lower the unemployment rate. Many have held off adding new workers in recent months, possibly because of concerns about the indecision regarding and impact of federal spending cuts and tax increases.
Economists forecast that the economy added 160,000 jobs last month. That's much better than the 88,000 added in March, but below last year's pace of nearly 185,000 per month. The unemployment rate is expected to remain unchanged at 7.6 percent. Many companies have been advertising more jobs but have been slow to fill them. Job openings jumped 11 percent during the 12 months that ended in February, but the number of people hired declined, according to a Labor Department report last month. Nearly 5 million people received unemployment aid during the week ended April 13, the latest data available.

San Francisco Chronicle: U.S. Jobless Claims Fall to Five Year Low

        Budget Update

The following reductions to the governor’s proposed budget were made by JFC:

1. 8 motions took a (16-0) unanimous vote. Those included opposing the governor’s recommendations on Circus World and transferring positions from State Fair Park to the Department of Administration.

2. Reduced proposed State spending by $32.6 million all funds ~ $7.6 million in GPR funds
48 proposed Full Time Employment positions eliminated
$2.8 million in borrowing/bonding eliminated

3. JFC Democrats proposed and failed to increase State spending by $30.5 million dollars

Circus World

The Governor's proposal to provide funding and positions for the Circus World Museum was voted down by Joint Finance committee members by a unanimous vote of 16-0. Although the state owns all of the assets of the Baraboo attraction, a private foundation, Circus World Museum Foundation, has operated the museum since the 1959. They receive their revenues through fundraising, admissions, donations and museum store sales. It was decided by the committee to have the museum remain a locally-operated private-public enterprise.

A large number of people had concerns with the Governor's proposal to transfer management to the State Historical Society. That plan would have resulted in 10 new state employees and cost the state more than $3.7 million in the next two years.


JFC invested $52 million in our Freight Rail preservation ($8 million less than the Governor) and $15.9 million in Harbor assistance programs. JFC also required DOT include on the application form for a driver’s license or identification card a question as to whether the applicant wishes to designate an additions $2 to support efforts of Donate Life Wisconsin.

The committee also deleted in its entirety a proposal to create 28 new positions for inspectors to monitor and enforce overweight fines and motor carriers. Deletion of this proposal saved the state $3.8 million over the biennium.


JFC retained the Governor's recommendation to transfer to $5.3 million GPR to the veteran's fund and report to the Joint Finance Committee every other year describing the current condition of the veteran’s trust fund. The committee also voted to create a reimbursement program for veterans that attend tribal colleges, and provide a one-time $500,000 grant to VETransfer, Inc.


Transfer $1 million from Department of Financial Intuitions gifts and grants appropriation and also direct the Attorney General to transfer $2,500,000 in discretionary mortgage settlement funds to WHEDA. This money will be used to fund grants for the demolition of abandoned, blighted properties in Wisconsin.  

With the immigration debate heating up in Washington, D.C., President Obama headed south of the border Thursday, embarking on a three-day trip to Mexico and Costa Rica as he tries to focus discussions on the economic ties between the United States, Mexico and Central America. On his fourth trip to Mexico since becoming president, Obama will engage in conversations with newly installed President Enrique Peña Nieto that are intended to extend beyond security concerns and focus heavily on the economic relationship and immigration issues between Mexico and the U.S.

Countries in Central America have lobbied Washington for years to create a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11.5 million immigrants who live illegally in the United States. Many of those illegal immigrants came to America through the Mexican border. Bolstering security along the route is a major concern of Congress, which fears offering a path to citizenship would unleash a flood of illegal border crossings into the United States.

Obama is expected to push for continued cooperation on anti-drug efforts both in Mexico and with the leaders of Central American nations when he met with them in Costa Rica on Friday. A growing number of countries are rethinking the war on drugs. Peña Nieto wants to refocus on economic growth and reforms of the energy and communications sectors, and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos made it an issue in last year's Summit of the Americas, when an isolated Obama said, “legalization is not the answer.”

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