Among the issues that will be addressed in the upcoming meeting is how traditional dispensers care for the hearing impaired when the Veterans Administration (VA), internet companies, national retailers like Wal-Mart (Sam’s Club) and Costco have become increasingly involved. All this plus the increasing presence of well financed major health care clinics adds to the mix. How do manufacturers fit into this mix? The marketplace is changing. Join with your fellow professionals to discuss and listen to how other state and national professional associations are helping their members and their members’ patients/clients cope.
2014 Annual Meeting Featured Speakers
Update on Amplification: Current Trends and Verification — Laurel Christensen, Ph.D., Chief Audiology Officer, GN ReSound Group.
Introduction to Tinnitus — Michael Piskosz, M.S., Board Certified in Audiology, Senior Global Audiologist, GN ReSound Group.
Improving Productivity & Quality in Your Practice — Brian Taylor, Au.D., Professional Development Manager, Unitron.
Relationship-building and the Science of Consultative Selling — Brian Taylor, Au.D., Professional Development Manager, Unitron.
STATE CAPITOL POST STATE BUDGET
Governor Walker’s $70.1 billion 2013-2015 state budget is now law. The July 1 deadline was met amidst smiling Republicans and critical Democratic leaders. Other groups on both sides more smiles. More frowns.
Walker praised the Republican Legislature for its support, claiming that this budget was built for “the hard-working taxpayers of the State of Wisconsin.” Walker pointed to the budget’s $1 billion in tax relief for individuals and small business owners. He also noted that the budget holds property tax increases to 1 percent and provides $322 million more for public schools, $100 million for workforce development programs and $6.4 billion in transportation spending.
Assembly Democratic Floor Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) was critical of a health care plan that covered way fewer than it should. He also argues this state budget is anti-middle class and costs taxpayers an additional $120 million. Walker critics also cited Walker’s rejection of more than $4 billion in federal dollars to expand Medical Assistance. The federal government offered to pay 90 percent of the state’s costs to expand Medicaid after fully funding the increase for the first three years. Walker insists the feds won’t keep their promise in the long run and then costs will cripple state finances.
In the meantime President Obama’s administration has decided to delay key provisions in Obamacare. Pushed back are the mandates that companies with 50 or more employees offer health insurance to full-time workers or face a penalty starting at $2,000 per employee. Business advocates say that putting Obamacare on hold prolongs economic uncertainty which continues to be a problem for the U.S. and state economies as they struggle for direction. In short they say this will be a drag on hiring.
Health care has long been an issue both nationally, in Wisconsin and other states. It will continue to be a problem complicated by cost and its impact upon economic development, starting with jobs. Wisconsin’s state legislature will continue to wrestle with this issue and many more.
The State Legislature returns in mid-September to take up hundreds of bills that have been largely set aside to give the legislature time to consider, amend and pass this last state budget. It will be this budget that Governor Walker and most of the Republican legislators will run on a year from now as the November 2014 elections near. Wisconsin’s ranking in the national growth index has also jumped from 40th in April to 20th . In another national ranking on job-creation from 44th to 33rd. Critics note this is just a snapshot in time. They also note that Governor Walker’s campaign pledge of creating 250,000 jobs during his first 4 years in office is far behind. Time will tell.
Tax cuts will highlight next year’s campaigns. Taxpayers will see $680 million in income-tax cuts over the coming biennium. According to Todd Berry, president of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, there has been little change in the income tax law since the 1999 state budget. He says there are ways of tinkering with income taxes, usually making it more complicated. This time was a rarity, highlighted with streamlining and simplification. Still more might be done. Watch too for this to be a part of what the legislature continues to address.
Marketplace Fairness continues to be reviewed in the U.S. Congress (internet sales absent sales tax collection, not to mention absence of licensed professionals to fit hearing instruments). This legislation has passed the Senate and is now in the House. The Alliancehas regularly reported on its progress. The latest wrinkle is whether or not it will hurt smaller internet sales businesses, including some main street stores who have expanded their businesses to include interstate sales. There is a small seller exception and other compliance and administrative considerations given to smaller interstate sellers. Whether or not these considerations are enough to address smaller business issues will be part of what Congress will consider. Whether or not this concern also provides members of the House who are looking for an excuse to vote no against this legislation remains to be seen. The Alliance will keep you posted. In the meantime Wisconsin Department of Revenue officials say that state law to implement this Congressional Act are already in place if it passes.
In the meantime the National Governors Association recently concluded its meeting in Milwaukee. This annual national meeting of the states’ governors is an honor to host. This year these governors sung the praises of Milwaukee as their families and staff were treated to a night at Miller Park complete with tailgate food and refreshments. The there was a parade Harley-Davidsons (Milwaukee is Harley’s hometown). There was more. including work to be done on health care and transportation issues. Probable and possible gubernatorial candidates for the 2016 Presidential race were on hand starting with Wisconsin’s Governor Walker. Walker and the Milwaukee promoters of this event are hopeful that many of the ancillary groups and organizations that normally attend these NGA meetings will consider Milwaukee the next time they are planning a convention or meeting.
Speaking of candidates for statewide office in the 2016 elections, former United States Senator Russ Feingold has received quite a bit of attention lately as pundits think he may well be positioning himself to regain that seat he lost in 2010. Feingold has been appointed to visit troubled areas of Africa for now. It remains to be seen how this sorts out but it offers opportunities. It could also cut into his ability to raise political contributions, organize and engage in campaigning at home. Still, if the recent State Democratic Party convention is any indication. Feingold remains the darling of many in that party.
In short, both in Madison and in Washington, legislation has passed. Legislation is pending. There are many problems and issues that require attention. The Alliance will report back to you. If you have any questions or concerns just let us know.
Enjoy the rest of the summer.