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By Kevin Derby of the Sunshine State News

U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., part of the GOP congressional leadership in his role as senior deputy majority whip, continues to fight for his “Zero-based Budgeting Ensures Responsible Oversight (ZERO) Act” legislation.

The bill requires federal agencies and departments to "justify and approve" every line item on their budgets each year, rather than make slight changes to the previous year’s budget. The proposal has been a top priority for Ross since he first took his seat in Congress back in 2011. 

Ross introduced the latest incarnation of the bill back in January 2017. 

“With our national debt reaching nearly $20 trillion, we must take all measures possible to eliminate egregious government spending and ensure that hard-earned taxpayer dollars are spent wisely,” Ross said at that time. “That is why I reintroduced my legislation, the ZERO Act. This bill requires agency and department managers to justify every line item on their budgets each year so we can rein in the waste, fraud and abuse of massive government bureaucracies. American families and small businesses across my district and the U.S. know the best way to balance their budgets is to start at zero. Washington needs to follow their lead.”

Ross’s office pointed to both the private and public sectors, insisting zero-based budgeting helped “curb inflation and identify waste.” The proposal would ensure federal departments justify spending to Congress and would make all spending reviewed annually. Ross’s bill would also make federal departments propose three levels of spending, two of which must be below the current level. 

The Central Florida congressman showcased the proposal last week. 

“Since being elected, I have led the charge to implement long-term federal spending controls that create opportunities for economic prosperity and job growth in Florida and across the country,” Ross noted. “I have fought to mandate zero-based budgeting by the federal government. Families and small businesses in Florida start their budget at zero every year. It is time for your federal government to do the same. The ZERO Act will require agencies for the first time to fully and transparently identify waste and justify their budget. 

“As a father, I know we cannot continue to bankrupt our great nation. Our children and grandchildren are counting on us,” Ross added. “I have led by example. In fact, I have returned more than $635,000 to the U.S. Treasury from my office budget since taking office. Providing exceptional constituent service is a top priority, but as I demand good stewardship of taxpayer dollars by the entire federal government, my office works diligently to not waste a penny of taxpayer money. We must demonstrate that federal entities can all do more with less, which is why I make sure to work under budget and return excess money every year.  More can and must be done, however. The federal budget process has been broken for too long, and we must address our increasing federal debt.”   

Praising the “ historic tax reform package” backed by President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans, Ross insisted the federal government had been given a chance to assume more fiscal responsibility. 

“This once in a generation tax reform enacted by House Republicans, working closely with President Trump, also presents us an incredible opportunity to get our fiscal house in order.” Ross maintained. “That is why I have directed my staff to develop legislation that harnesses a portion of the economic growth attributed to tax reform and other pro-growth policies to pay down the debt. This ultimately benefits current and future generations, helping to instill confidence and optimism once again in the American economy.”

In the meantime, Ross’ ZERO Act is not showing much in the way of momentum on Capitol Hill. It has been languishing before the U.S. House Budget Committee for fifteen months and has picked up only one cosponsor--though admittedly a prominent one-- in U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc., who has been in the House for almost four decades. 

By: Craig Gilbert and Bill Glauber of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

WASHINGTON - Mike Gallagher says it would be bad for the country if the president fired special counsel Robert Mueller.

Jim Sensenbrenner says he respects Mueller and thinks he should be allowed to finish his job.

Sean Duffy says Mueller’s investigation is “based on a sham.”

These three Republicans represent the Wisconsin congressional districts where Donald Trump enjoyed his biggest victory margins in 2016.

But their comments illustrate the different signals GOP lawmakers are sending about their level of support for the Mueller investigation as it has come under attack from President Trump and some of his allies.

The Journal Sentinel asked all 10 members of Congress from Wisconsin — six Republicans and four Democrats — how they view Trump’s recent criticisms of Mueller, whether they think Mueller should be allowed to complete his job, and how they would react if Trump fired Mueller.

Democrats said they supported legislation aimed at limiting the president’s ability to dismiss Mueller. And two — Mark Pocan of Dane County and Gwen Moore of Milwaukee — suggested firing the special counsel would be an impeachable offense. 

No Republican expressed support for bills to protect Mueller, saying such legislation exceeds the authority of Congress or is unnecessary.

“That legislation is obviously unconstitutional. The … Constitution gives the president almost unlimited authority over executive branch employees,” said Sensenbrenner.

But in an interview, Sensenbrenner said he respects Mueller, had a productive relationship with him when Sensenbrenner chaired the House judiciary committee and Mueller was FBI director, and “I’ve publicly stated Mueller ought to be allowed to complete his job.”

Sensenbrenner was not critical of Trump for his attacks on Mueller, which escalated earlier this month when the president invoked Mueller by name on Twitter in assailing the probe as biased. The White House has said there are no plans to dismiss Mueller.

“I take the president at his word that he’s not going to fire Mueller,” said Sensenbrenner. “I think he’s entitled to his opinion (about Mueller) just like Bill Clinton was entitled to his opinions on the Starr investigation.”

Green Bay’s Gallagher was the most pointed of any Wisconsin Republican in expressing concern about the issue underlying the Mueller investigation — Russian interference in the U.S. elections. 

Asked, “Are you troubled by President Trump's attacks on the special counsel?” Gallagher answered in a series of written responses to questions the newspaper asked of each lawmaker: “Our nation’s problems are not best solved using Twitter.”

“Would firing Mueller be bad for the country?” he was asked. He answered, “Yes, because it would spark even greater partisan hysteria than we've seen so far, thereby distracting everyone from the real issues of Russian aggression, and potential law enforcement and legal lapses.”

He was asked: “Are the president's attacks on the special counsel a threat to the rule of law? Would the special counsel's firing be such a threat?”

Gallagher answered, “I’m confident our rule of law is stronger than Twitter. This is also why the founders, in their infinite wisdom, separated powers in our government.”  

Gallagher, who has been very critical of Russia’s role, said: “If Congress is concerned about Russian aggression and violations of our sovereignty (as it should be), we should uncover any and all involvement, and hold those who broke the law accountable. Mueller has already indicted at least 17 individuals with criminal charges, including 13 Russians, and the administration (to their credit) used the power we granted under (last year’s sanctions bill) to sanction many of these same individuals. We should sanction (Vladimir) Putin and his corrupt cronies, and put our full economic, diplomatic, and military might at use to push back and hold Russia accountable.”

On legislation to protect Mueller, Gallagher said that "while I believe firing the special counsel in this situation would be a serious mistake," he has questions about the constitutionality of such bills, and has asked legal scholars for their views on the subject before taking a position. 

Other Republicans responded more tersely to the newspaper’s questions.

Glenn Grothman told a reporter Tuesday: “I just finished a day of listening sessions. My constituents are worried about excessive government spending, health care costs and school safety. And, therefore, I am spending my time on the above issues. If and when Mr. Mueller is let go, I will develop a position at that time.”

Duffy, whose northern Wisconsin district gave Trump his biggest victory margin in Wisconsin (just over 20 points), responded with this statement: “I’m not going to speculate about what will happen to Mueller, but his investigation is based on a sham. The only collusion that we have seen is from the Clinton campaign and Democrat National Committee paying an ex-British spy who used Russian sources to write a phony dossier. I agree with Chairmen Goodlatte and Gowdy in their call for a special counsel into the abuses of power and poor decision-making of the DOJ in 2016 and 2017. President Trump knows there has been no collusion and is rightfully frustrated when the media perpetuates this story.”

An aide to Sen. Ron Johnson referred the newspaper to a recent radio interview Johnson did in which he said he wasn’t concerned about Trump firing Mueller, saying at that time: "I don’t think he will — he said he won’t ... and I think there are plenty of members that have talked about that — that would be very counterproductive for the president to do that.”

In the same interview with WHBY radio last week, Johnson also expressed some reservations about the Mueller investigation:

“I really wanted the Senate and House intelligence committees to complete their work before we even considered appointing a special counsel. The problem with special counsels — the problem with any prosecution as it relates to congressional investigations — is once you have a criminal investigation or something that might lead to prosecution it gets very difficult for members of Congress to obtain the information they need to conclude our work as well. I think it was unfortunate that Robert Mueller was appointed prior to the completion of that work.”

Aides to House Speaker Paul Ryan of Janesville referred the newspaper to a raft of public statements Ryan has made about the Mueller investigation.

At a news conference March 20, Ryan said: “The special counsel should be free to follow through with its investigation to completion without interference. Absolutely. I am confident that he’ll be able to do that. I’ve received assurances that his firing is not even under consideration. We have a system based upon the rule of law in this country. We have a justice system and no one is above that justice system.”

In comments last year on a Wisconsin talk radio show, Ryan said, “Remember, Bob Mueller is a Republican who was appointed by a Republican who served in the Republican administration who crossed over and stayed on 'til his term ended. I don't think many people are saying Bob Mueller is a person who is a biased partisan. He's really, sort of, anything but.”

Among Wisconsin Democrats, Sen. Tammy Baldwin said she backs two bipartisan bills to protect Mueller’s independence.

“There is a pattern of the president attempting to interfere with, and undermine, the investigation,” she said in written answers to the Journal Sentinel’s questions.

Baldwin said, “Firing the special counsel would be crossing a red line and a clear attack on the rule of law,” and called on lawmakers in both parties to “speak out and impress upon President Trump that if he has nothing to hide, he should cooperate with the Mueller investigation, not end it.”  

Baldwin called Russia a hostile power and said, “Putin directed an attack on our democracy that interfered with our elections. This isn’t a hoax and Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation is not a witch hunt.”

Pocan has also signed on to legislation aimed at protecting Mueller.

“I've watched (President Trump) repeatedly try to do everything he can to derail the Mueller investigation, including his most recent attempts to try and intimidate and threaten people who might be trying to testify,” Pocan said in an interview.

If Mueller were fired, "That would be something that would rise to the level of me actively pursuing the impeachment process,” said Pocan. “With an issue like that, I think there are enough rank-and-file Republicans that I've had private conversations with that also share some of the things I have in this area. I think we would be at a point that we actually could impeach the president. I think that would be the proper response for someone who obstructed justice."

In the event of Mueller's firing, Moore said she would "prevail upon Paul Ryan to allow various articles of impeachment to come forward."

"If he gets fired then presumably Donald Trump and his supporters will see that as the end of the investigation," she said. "I think clearly that would be obstruction of justice and that should be the first article of impeachment."

Moore said that Trump has attacked the courts and an independent Justice Department and Mueller's potential ouster would be "the crown jewel" of such attacks.

She remained hopeful that Mueller's investigation would proceed and cautioned about the enormity of the stakes.

"The president said right from the beginning that his financial affairs, his businesses in his mind, were off-limits," she said. "He only wanted them to look at so-called collusion and 'there's no collusion.' "

"I think as the president gets more irritated by Mueller of getting close to him, not only is there a threat of him being fired, there's a threat of saber rattling with Iran and North Korea," she added. "So this is a very frightening time for all of us."

"I think we need to protect this investigation for the sake, not only of our country, but of the world," she said.

Democrat Ron Kind of La Crosse said in a statement: 

"Any type of foreign government interference in our election process is an all-hands-on-deck moment. We need to find out what weaknesses we have in our election processes, and take steps to make sure it doesn't happen again. 

"The president and his administration must continue to allow Special Counsel Mueller and his team conduct their investigation, so we can get back to dealing with issues that matter to Wisconsinites, like creating jobs and growing our local economy." 

By: Rick Romell of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

When it comes to the general idea of using eminent domain to seize someone's private property in the name of economic development, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan hasn’t minced words.

He has called it an abuse of power and “wrong,” and twice has voted for bills — one of which he co-sponsored — to curb the practice.

But when it comes to the specific case of the Village of Mount Pleasant possibly using eminent domain to take homes away from people in the area where Foxconn Technology Group plans to build a $10 billion manufacturing complex, Ryan, who represents the village's residents in Congress, doesn’t have much to say.

“Kim, I wish I could assist you in addressing this matter,” Ryan wrote in January to a constituent worried about losing her home to the Foxconn project through eminent domain. “Unfortunately, I am unable to provide you with the assistance you need, as this issue is one that falls under the primary jurisdiction of the State of Wisconsin, not the federal government.”

Ryan struck a much different tone in 2005, when he co-sponsored a bill to deny federal economic development money to states or communities that use eminent domain to take private property without the owner’s consent and turn it over to another private party for use in a profit-seeking business.

“When someone works years to secure a home or establish a successful family store or restaurant, only to be forced by the government to give it up so a corporation can redevelop the land, that’s wrong,” Ryan declared at the time.

“I took an oath to defend the Constitution, and this means protecting citizens’ right to own private property and prevent government from abusing its power,” he said in a news release after voting with the 376-38 House majority to pass the bill.

The legislation, proposed in the wake of a widely criticized U.S. Supreme Court decision that authorized the government's taking of private property for private development, went no further. Similar bills have been introduced in every congressional session since without being enacted.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, like Ryan a Wisconsin Republican, has been an especially strong advocate for curbing use of eminent domain for economic development. He has introduced the “Private Property Rights Protection Act” five times.

The one time the legislation came up for a roll-call vote in the House, in 2014, Ryan voted for it.

The Mount Pleasant resident seeking Ryan’s help was Kim Mahoney, who with her husband, James, owns a home at 10440 Prairie View Drive. The property is in a small subdivision on the 1,200-acre tract where Foxconn plans to build a factory that could employ thousands building flat-panel monitors.

Mahoney said she called Ryan’s office in Washington and spoke with a staffer about the village’s potential use of eminent domain to acquire land for Foxconn. In response, the congressman on Jan. 5 sent a letter saying he could understand her frustration and concerns, but couldn’t help.

He recommended that she reach out to Gov. Scott Walker and her representatives in the Wisconsin Assembly and Senate, and included their contact information.

“I appreciate you trusting me to address this matter, and I regret that I do not have the jurisdiction to directly intervene on your behalf,” Ryan wrote. “However, if I can ever be of assistance to you in any matter that directly involves an agency of the federal government, please do not hesitate to let me know.”

Mahoney scoffed at that.

“Private property rights are guaranteed under the Fifth and Fourteenth amendments of the U.S Constitution,” she said. “And if Congressman Ryan did not think eminent domain abuse by local municipalities was a federal issue, then why did he co-sponsor” the original Private Property Rights Protection Act?

“It’s happening in his own district,” Mahoney said. “His claim that it is not a federal issue — it’s absurd and it's chicken (expletive). I don’t know if that’s one or two words.” 

A related issue that has irritated Mahoney and other owners of small parcels of property in the Foxconn area involves money.

Mount Pleasant has said it will offer homeowners 40% more than the market value price required by state law. But the owners of large pieces of open farmland — the key component in assembling the huge amount of real estate Foxconn needs — got a far greater premium.

They were paid $50,000 an acre. Real estate records indicate that open land previously was selling for a fraction of that price. Four separate parcels of open land within the designated Foxconn area sold between 2011 and 2014 at prices ranging from about $4,300 an acre to just under $8,000 an acre.

Asked by a reporter what Ryan thinks about the prospect of Mount Pleasant using eminent domain authority in a way that he previously has described as an abuse of government power, a spokesman for the House Speaker said by email:

“While the congressman continues to believe that Foxconn will bring a new era of manufacturing to the State of Wisconsin, he has not been involved in the local land acquisition process related to this project.”

Ryan has said Foxconn, with its plans to employ up to 13,000 people at good pay, is “an absolute game changer” for Wisconsin. He has said he helped advocate for the state with Foxconn CEO Terry Gou, and he stood beside Gou and Gov. Scott Walker when they announced the deal at the White House in July and when they signed a development contract in November.

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Reps. Peter Welch, D-Vt., and Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., today rolled out legislation that would require the president to disclose the topline annual budget request to Congress from each of the 16 federal agencies conducting intelligence activities. Currently, spending levels for these federal intelligence agencies and activities is classified and hidden from the public.

The Intelligence Budget Transparency Act would require the president’s annual budget request to make public the amount of funding budgeted for intelligence agencies and activities, creating greater transparency and oversight over how much is spent annually by the intelligence community.

By operating secret programs funded by secret budgets, our national intelligence agencies enjoy a blank check as far as the American taxpayers are concerned,” Wyden said. “With little to no public oversight, it is even more important that Americans have at least some sense of whether they’re getting what they paid for. Requiring the disclosure of these budget requests is the first step in achieving greater accountability and transparency of these agencies.”

“Protecting our national security means keeping many things secret from our enemies, but Congress should not be the ones in the dark. Just as the military can provide budget information without jeopardizing our security, so too can the Intelligence Community. This bill would declassify the top-line budget number of each of our Intelligence Community entities, adding a level of much-needed transparency,” said Senator Paul

"The biggest threat to the success of any federal program is a combination of unlimited money and non-existent oversight. That's the situation Congress has allowed to develop in the critical work of intelligence gathering,” Welch said. “The top-line intelligence budgets for America's 16 intelligence agencies are unknown to the American taxpayer and largely unknown to the Members of Congress who represent them. It's led to dubious policies, wasted money and questionable effectiveness. Americans have a right to know how their tax dollars are being spent and that their national security interests are being well served.”

“Properly funding our intelligence gathering agencies is critical to keeping Americans safe and secure. However, failure to disclose budgetary requests for these agencies does not meet the most basic government transparency standards,” Sensenbrenner said. “By declassifying the top-line budgets of each agency, this bill expands accountability to make certain taxpayer dollars are spent effectively while still protecting national security.” 

The bill would require disclosure of funding requests from the following agencies: Air Force Intelligence, Army Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency, Coast Guard Intelligence, Defense Intelligence Agency, Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Treasury, Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Marine Corps Intelligence, National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, National Reconnaissance Office, National Security Agency, Department of State, and Navy Intelligence. 

###

By: Juliegrace Brufke of The Hill

Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) says he plans to seek the House Judiciary Committee gavel next year.

“I will be running for chairman of the Judiciary Committee,” Collins said at a breakfast meeting hosted by the Ripon Society on Thursday. “Some of you may say, 'Three terms, getting ready for a fourth term, and you're going to run for chairman of the Judiciary Committee?' I think it is about a vision. I think — I think we have a lot of turnover in our committee this year, and what I am putting forward is a vision of saying that there are things in our committee that are ripe for the next real resurgence in our economy." 

Collins, who currently serves as the vice chairman of the House Republican Conference, said, if he's elected Judiciary chair, he would focus on issues he believes "will impact the next 40 to 50 years of our economy," citing intellectual property and immigration as areas he feels need to be reformed. 

The Judiciary committee is slated to look dramatically different in the 116th Congress, with current Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Reps. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Ted Poe (R-Texas), Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) and Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) all set to leave Congress at the end of their terms.

While the most senior member on the committee behind Goodlatte, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), has already served as chairman, seniority could be Collins's biggest issue in the race. 

GOP Reps. Steve Chabot (Ohio), Steve King (Iowa), Louie Gohmert (Texas), Jim Jordan (Ohio) and Tom Marino (Pa.) all rank above Collins. 

Chabot is likely to be Collins’s biggest competition in the race. 

“[Chabot] is running for chair," a GOP aide with knowledge of the congressman's plans told The Hill, adding it's unclear when he will officially announce his bid. 

By: Katie Bo Williams of The Hill

A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Thursday renewed a push to require the president to disclose the top-line budget request for each of the 16 federal agencies that make up the U.S. Intelligence Community.

Currently, only the overall top-line figure is not classified — split between two aggregates of military and national intelligence, like the CIA and the FBI.

The bill, from Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) in the Senate and Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) in the House, would require the president’s annual budget request to make public an agency-by-agency breakdown.

“Protecting our national security means keeping many things secret from our enemies, but Congress should not be the ones in the dark,” Paul said in a statement. "Just as the military can provide budget information without jeopardizing our security, so too can the Intelligence Community.” 

Critics of the move argue that providing that level of detail — particularly in the case of smaller agencies — would give away too much information to adversaries about U.S. intelligence priorities. Only since 2007 has the national intelligence budget been made public.

Welch, with support from Sensenbrenner, has pushed since 2014 to cut down on the secrecy surrounding the so-called black budget, but has been rebuffed by both the Obama and Trump administrations.

“Beyond the disclosure of the NIP top-line figure, there will be no other disclosures of currently classified NIP budget information because such disclosures could harm national security,” the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in its 2019 budget request.

In 2013, the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden provided detailed figures on that year’s budget to The Washington Post, revealing a dominant $14.7 billion in CIA funding — an increase of over 50 percent between 2004 and 2013 — and $10.8 billion in NSA funding.

With the exception of the relevant intelligence and armed services committees, lawmakers are largely in the dark — leading to “dubious policies, wasted money and questionable effectiveness,” according to Welch.

The Trump administration requested a total of $81 billion for the year 2019 — $59.9 billion for national intelligence and $21.2 billion for military intelligence—up from the $78.4 that the administration requested for 2018.

By: KTVZ

WASHINGTON - Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Reps. Peter Welch, D-Vt., and Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., rolled out legislation Friday that would require the president to disclose the topline annual budget request to Congress from each of the 16 federal agencies conducting intelligence activities.

Currently, spending levels for these federal intelligence agencies and activities is classified and hidden from the public, the lawmakers said.

The Intelligence Budget Transparency Act would require the president’s annual budget request to make public the amount of funding budgeted for intelligence agencies and activities, creating greater transparency and oversight over how much is spent annually by the intelligence community.

 “By operating secret programs funded by secret budgets, our national intelligence agencies enjoy a blank check as far as the American taxpayers are concerned,” Wyden said. “With little to no public oversight, it is even more important that Americans have at least some sense of whether they’re getting what they paid for. Requiring the disclosure of these budget requests is the first step in achieving greater accountability and transparency of these agencies.”

“Protecting our national security means keeping many things secret from our enemies, but Congress should not be the ones in the dark. Just as the military can provide budget information without jeopardizing our security, so too can the Intelligence Community. This bill would declassify the top-line budget number of each of our Intelligence Community entities, adding a level of much-needed transparency,” said Senator Paul. 

 "The biggest threat to the success of any federal program is a combination of unlimited money and non-existent oversight. That's the situation Congress has allowed to develop in the critical work of intelligence gathering,” Welch said. “The top-line intelligence budgets for America's 16 intelligence agencies are unknown to the American taxpayer and largely unknown to the Members of Congress who represent them. It's led to dubious policies, wasted money and questionable effectiveness. Americans have a right to know how their tax dollars are being spent and that their national security interests are being well served.”

“Properly funding our intelligence gathering agencies is critical to keeping Americans safe and secure. However, failure to disclose budgetary requests for these agencies does not meet the most basic government transparency standards,” Sensenbrenner said. “By declassifying the top-line budgets of each agency, this bill expands accountability to make certain taxpayer dollars are spent effectively while still protecting national security.” 

The bill would require disclosure of funding requests from the following agencies: Air Force Intelligence, Army Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency, Coast Guard Intelligence, Defense Intelligence Agency, Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Treasury, Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Marine Corps Intelligence, National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, National Reconnaissance Office, National Security Agency, Department of State, and Navy Intelligence.

By: Matthew DeFour of the Wisconsin State Journal

Three of Madison’s most economically challenged areas, including the shuttered Oscar Mayer plant, could benefit from a new economic development tool created under the recently enacted federal tax law.

Gov. Scott Walker on Wednesday named 120 areas of the state that could be eligible for the program, including 11 in Dane County.

The new Economic Opportunity Zones allow redevelopment in designated low-income areas with investment funds that won’t be subject to the usual capital gains tax. The designations, if approved by the U.S. Treasury Department in the next 30 to 60 days, would be in place for the next decade.

“We are excited to embrace Economic Opportunity Zones as a new tool to build on our track record of economic growth,” Walker said. “These recommendations reach communities across our state — urban, rural and tribal — that are positioned for strong and sustained growth.”

The 120 designated census tracts are located in 44 counties and include 85 in metropolitan areas and 35 in non-metropolitan areas. Milwaukee County has the most with 37.

Each census tract must have enough low-income households to be eligible. Only 25 percent of the 479 eligible census tracts in the state could be selected so Walker recommended the maximum amount allowed.

Dane County nominated 19 tracts for consideration, so having 11 selected was “very positive,” said Paul Jadin, president of the Madison Region Economic Partnership.

Some of the tracts are contiguous, so they form four distinct areas in Dane County: Madison’s North and Northeast side neighborhoods around Oscar Mayer, the Dane County Regional Airport and the Madison Area Technical College campus and part of the Capitol East corridor; a large area along the Beltline from Allied Drive to Monona, including the Alliant Energy Center and the Villager Mall; the University Research Park and the Meadowood Neighborhood on the city’s Southwest Side; and part of Sun Prairie.

The Oscar Mayer area was the highest priority in Dane County, Jadin said. The city has a development team working on attracting investment to that site and has applied for a $500,000 state grant for idle factory site redevelopment and federal funding.

Two lower-priority areas in Middleton and the Hawthorne and Lake Edge neighborhoods and area around Highland Park on Madison’s East Side were not selected. The Greenbush, Vilas, Waunona and Bridge-Lakepoint neighborhoods on the South Side and the neighborhoods near Lake Mendota on the North Side were nominated as high priorities but not recommended by Walker.

Mayor Paul Soglin said the city is pleased with the outcome, though it remains to be seen what kind of private investment will be spurred by the tax break.

“We feel we did very well,” Soglin said. “Nobody knows exactly how this is going to work. We’re going into new territory. We’ll have to take that a step at a time.”

The city did not submit all eligible areas, Soglin said. For example, the State-Langdon neighborhood qualified because it included UW-Madison student housing, but the city felt it would be “counterproductive” and “not meeting the purpose of the law” to submit that tract for consideration. The Downtown and campus area tracts were also eligible but not nominated.

The recommendations from Walker came from a working group with members from the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority, Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., Department of Administration and Department of Children and Families, public comment and an analysis by Chicago-based consultant Novogradac & Co., according to Walker’s office.

Economic Opportunity Zones were a concept developed in 2015 by the Economic Innovation Group, which bills itself as a bipartisan Washington, D.C., think tank founded by entrepreneurs. The concept was promoted in a bill sponsored by both Republicans and Democrats, including Reps. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, and Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls.

The idea was later incorporated into the American Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Today, the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) applauded Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) for his relentless and unwavering support of the fiscal interests of American taxpayers while serving in Congress. Rep. Sensenbrenner is one of the 12 lawmakers to earn a perfect score of 100 percent in CCAGW’s 2017 Congressional Ratings, making him a “Taxpayer Super Hero.” He currently has an exemplary lifetime rating of 95 percent.

The report, which CCAGW has issued since 1989, highlights the voting records of all 535 members of Congress. It identifies members whose impeccable voting records helped protect and save the taxpayers’ money, earning them the honored title of “Taxpayer Super Hero,” and cites those who consistently voted against the fiscal interest of taxpayers.

CCAGW rates members of both chambers on a 0-100 percent scale. Members are placed in the following categories: 0-19 percent Hostile; 20-39 percent Unfriendly; 40-59 percent Lukewarm; 60-79 percent Friendly; 80-99 percent Taxpayer Hero; and 100 percent Taxpayer Super Hero. The 2017 Congressional Ratings scored 93 votes in the House of Representatives and 27 votes in the Senate.

“We applaud and wholeheartedly thank Rep. Sensenbrenner for his tireless work on behalf of the taxpayers while serving in Congress,” said CCAGW President Tom Schatz. “His courageous votes to cut wasteful spending and make government more accountable should serve as an example to other members, challenging them to make good on promises to protect the fiscal interests of American taxpayers.”

“We have no doubt that Rep. Sensenbrenner will continue to help lead the effort to eliminate government waste and bring fiscal sanity to Washington,” added Schatz. “His constituents should be very proud of him.”

The Council for Citizens Against Government Waste is the lobbying arm of Citizens Against Government Waste, the nation’s largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in government.

By: David Kroman of Crosscut

What was once a first-of-its-kind jail diversion program between Seattle police and local case workers may soon land on the desk of President Donald Trump, a man known more for his threats to execute drug dealers than his willingness to find new solutions to an out-of-control opioid epidemic.

But first-term Seattle Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal is finding support on both sides of the aisle for funding the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program (LEAD) in the 2019 federal budget.

“It’s got the attention of Republicans because LEAD is a program that offers social services to people instead of incarcerating them,” Jayapal, a Democrat, said in an interview Tuesday.

LEAD first began in Seattle in 2011 as a response to racially disproportionate drug-related arrests. While post-arrest diversion programs are common in courts across the country, LEAD was unprecedented in that police officers would not make an arrest right away, avoiding the messy and often harmful bureaucracy of the criminal justice system.

Instead, officers connect low-level offenders — such as drug possession or prostitution — with case workers. What makes LEAD even more unique is that the diversion does not come with the same level of requirements as drug courts. The only thing required of a participant is an intake assessment, and if a drug user continues to use, they won’t be arrested.

It’s a program in the same “harm reduction” arena as needle exchanges for heroin users, built on the idea that assistance need not come with a sobriety requirement and that society’s hope for a person may not always align with the current reality. Or, as public defender and LEAD founder Lisa Daugaard likes to say, that “better is better.”

Another unique aspect of the LEAD program was that from the beginning, its success has been contingent on collaboration with the criminal justice system. In addition to a wide range of business, neighborhood and advocacy groups, Daugaard worked closely with King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg and City Attorney Pete Holmes as well as with local law enforcement to make it a reality.

In the years that have followed, data has shown the program to be effective at keeping people out of jail and reducing recidivism. Participants are more likely to find housing and/or a job, and to come away with a positive view of local enforcement. The program was highlighted in a recent Frontline documentary as a new approach to the opioid epidemic.

As a result, LEAD has already begun to spread, and is currently or soon to be operating in 25 cities from Portland, Oregon to Huntington, West Virginia. An additional 36 cities are either developing programs or exploring the idea.

But this expansion has not come with the aid of the federal government. Now, both Daugaard and Jayapal are optimistic that could change, thanks to the broad support from communities who have seen it work. “They have a significant issue in their state and they’re hearing from law enforcement that this approach is effective,” said Daugaard.

Jayapal, for her part, has been interested in LEAD since her time as a state senator in Olympia. After she was elected to the U.S. Congress in 2016, she was appointed to the House Judiciary Committee, which gave her an opening. “When I came it was just a natural thing for me to work on, being on the judiciary committee” she said.

This past September, she sent a letter to the chair of the House Appropriations Committee requesting $2.5 million for the program in the 2019 budget. At that time, she only had the support of fellow Democrats.

But by December, Republicans started coming on board, including Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis), whom Jayapal pegged as a Republican with an interest in criminal justice reform. She also collected signatures from Republicans Walter Jones, David McKinley, Alex Mooney and Mike Johnson. With that support, she sent another letter re-stating the call for the $2.5 million on March 13.

The proposal also has some traction in the U.S. Senate: In a March 15 letter sent to the Senate Appropriations Committee, 12 Democrats included LEAD as one of a number of proposals aimed at reducing opioid-related arrests. No Republicans signed the letter.

Daugaard concedes that $2.5 million isn’t anywhere near enough to run the program country-wide. But what’s important, she says, is what it symbolizes. “We’re not talking about a level that would support implementation of LEAD nationwide, so I don’t want to overstate [the funding’s] significance,” she said. “The significance here is really about a paradigm shift… The further down the road you go, the harder it is to turn back.”

Jayapal is genuinely optimistic about the funding’s chances, in part because it’s such a small amount of money. “I think that the chances are pretty good,” she said. “Then the question becomes, can we expand our understanding of LEAD? Can we get it into the main conversation as a practical solution to the opioid crisis?…I do think Republicans have an appetite for this.”