By The Associated Press

Eau Claire Leader-Telegram. April 18, 2022.

Editorial: Home sales trend not surprising, but worth watching

After a couple years of unbelievably high home sales in the region, it’s not a surprise in the least to see some areas of Wisconsin falling behind the prior year’s pace now. It’s simply impossible to sustain record and near-record rates for too long.

The real question is whether this is a pause for the market to catch its breath or the beginning of a shift back to a buyer’s market.

Even a brief retreat on the overall number of sales seems unlikely to hurt values too much, at least in the near term. A study released in late March showed Wisconsin’s housing market remained strong, with the total value of homes on the market still well ahead of the previous decades’ norm.

That means that a reversal is only a downturn compared to recent figures. It’s still very strong compared to historical averages. And things didn’t slow down much over this past winter. A 4.7% decline in February sales sounds significant, but still totals 4,300 homes sold. And that’s only part of the 16,000 homes sold during the season.

The Wisconsin Policy Forum said revenue from the prior fiscal year, which ended June 30, 2021, came to more than $132 million. That’s an increase of more than one-third over the previous fiscal year. And, to all appearances, demand remains strong amid a limited supply.

A Wisconsin home that sold for $126,500 in 2016 has gained about $45,000 in value. Most of that increase has come since 2020 began. That’s an extraordinarily fast gain.

While the past couple years have been great for sellers, it hasn’t been quite the same for those looking to buy. Many are paying more than they anticipated for mortgages or have shifted their focus to smaller homes. Others have been priced out of the market entirely. It’s hard to say when, or if, those people will come back.

The housing market isn’t a straight line. It never has been. The market doesn’t move in a completely predictable fashion. Sure, sellers can often realize a gain over what they paid, but the same thing can be said of most conventional long-term investments. And that’s precisely what homes are. People usually don’t turn around and sell within just a year or two. When you buy one, you’re in it for the long haul more often than not.

So, while the rapid increases in home prices do raise some concerns for us, we never saw them as a reason to panic. Conditions change, and the very unusual conditions that have predominated over the past two years certainly make hasty conclusions unwise.

By that same token, we’re not reading a lot into the results of the recent reports. There’s may be a difference between a white hot market and one that is, compared to most of the past couple decades, merely red hot, but it’s hardly the same as a market in which you’re selling at a loss.

What we’ll be watching for is whether the past couple months’ trend continues or accelerates as we head into late spring and early summer. It wouldn’t surprise us if the sales continue to be below the marks set in 2021 simply because there are fewer homes available. Many of those who wanted to sell have done so, after all. Other factors, including rising interest rates, could also cool the market.

What would concern us is if a modest year-to-year decline showed signs of becoming something more. A collapse of the market would do significant damage, as we’ve all seen before. We don’t think the evidence for such a collapse is there right now, but that’s one of the things that make such events so troubling. Most people don’t see them coming.

What is clear right now is that there seems to be more unease about the economy than what we’ve seen since shortly after COVID arrived. It’s widespread, and it’s being caused by multiple factors. Inflation, housing pressure and international events aren’t comforting at the moment. There are very real reasons to feel a bit nervous.

We’ll be watching the coming months closely. But we’re not in favor of dire predictions or unsupported optimism right now. Like everyone else, we’ll just have to wait to see what comes next.


Wisconsin State Journal. April 14, 2022.

Editorial: How to lift tens of thousands of Wisconsin children out of poverty — again

Democrats who control Congress did something extraordinary last year. They pulled 3.7 million children out of poverty, including tens of thousands of kids in Wisconsin.

Now they need to do it again, with bipartisan support. Wisconsin’s congressional delegation should help make it happen.

Democrats last year passed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, a $1.9 trillion spending package. Among its sweeping provisions, the legislation sent six monthly payments to parents from July through December. The payments were an advance on a larger annual child tax credit for 2021, which increased from $2,000 per child to $3,000 or $3,600, depending on the child’s age.

Parents could choose to accept some of that money in monthly installments, and 36 million American families — including 600,000 in Wisconsin — did just that, receiving up to $250 per older child and $300 per younger child. In Wisconsin, the average family received a monthly payment of $457.

Child poverty fell by 30%, which was a historic achievement.

Lower- and middle-income families struggling to pay their bills used the extra money to feed and house their children, according to surveys. Some parents paid for child care. Others were able to work less and stay home with their kids.

Getting payments monthly — rather than a lump sum after filing their taxes — encouraged regular and more responsible use of the money. And unlike other vouchers or subsidies, parents got to decide how to spend the extra money to support their families.

But in January, the monthly payments ended, plunging 3.7 million children back into poverty. Congress needs to bring the payments back and make them permanent this time.

The Democrats tried to restart the payments this year. But they wasted time, energy and political capital by pushing the payments as part of President Joe Biden’s enormous “Build Back Better” spending plan. It’s time to pursue the higher child tax credit on its own.

Democrats blame U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., for killing “Build Back Better” in February. But some of Manchin’s objections to the larger plan, and specifically to the child tax credit, had merit.

The credit was offered to too many families who didn’t need it, making it much more expensive. Those earning as much as $170,000 a year were eligible for the higher credit, under the Democratic plan. And even families earning up to $400,000 could claim the original $2,000 credit. That’s six times the average household income in Wisconsin.

It wasn’t justified.

Manchin wants to tighten the cap on eligibility and bring back a modest work requirement. He also wants the federal budget to honestly reflect the cost of the higher credit into the future.

The Democrats should consider his suggestions and invite Republicans to help negotiate a lasting deal. Reasonable Republicans such as U.S. Sens. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, want to get involved.

So get it done, Congress. Then claim victory this fall.

Raising children is expensive. More important, all of society benefits when children get off to strong starts in life, whether during a pandemic or not.

That’s why every modern president has supported the child tax credit. Former President Bill Clinton signed it into law. Former President George W. Bush doubled the credit to $1,000 in 2001 and made it refundable. Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump extended and enhanced it further.

Congress may be distracted by the looming midterm elections. But restoring these important payments to parents is doable if Democrats agree to a standalone, refined and bipartisan bill.


Wisconn Valley Media Group. April 13, 2022.

Editorial: Law to limit number of taverns must change

Nearly a century ago, Wisconsin legislators passed a state law limiting the number of liquor licenses that municipalities in the state could have.

After Prohibition ended in 1933, state lawmakers were concerned about the number of bars opening up. So in 1939, they passed the law limiting the number of establishments that could get Class B liquor licenses.

The law limits liquor licenses based on a city’s population, with one license for on-site liquor consumption per every 500 people in that municipality.

At the time when the law was passing, the Journal Times Editorial Board endorsed the state law limiting the number of liquor licenses based on population and wrote, “Proposed law to limit number of taverns would be a good thing for Wisconsin.”

Since then, a lot has changed. It’s time for the current Legislature to revisit this important issue and revise the law.

Officials in Burlington recently brought up concern about this old law after the city issued its last liquor license, meaning that if a restaurant or other new business is considering opening in Burlington, the city has no liquor license available for the foreseeable future, and could risk losing economic development.

The board appealed to Assembly Speaker Rep. Robin Vos, R-Rochester, to change the law.

Vos, who grew up in Burlington and now resides in Rochester, responded that he is willing to consider relaxing the state’s restrictions.

“I would certainly be open to looking at that,” he said. That is good news and we hope those words are followed with actions.

If this archaic law is repealed, it doesn’t mean there has to be a free-for-all. Municipalities would still need to put rules in place and could still put limits in place if they felt that was right for their communities. That should be done along with guidance from constituents and police who will be monitoring the establishments.

Yes, Wisconsin already has a lot of drinking, as well as drinking and driving. But allowing municipalities to have a few more liquor licenses is not going to make a difference in regards to how much people drink. It just gives them more options and economic opportunities for the community.

This is not 1939. Times have changed and laws should, too. Lawmakers cannot be afraid to stand up to the all-powerful Tavern League. They should do what is right for their communities.

The current law is very limiting for new businesses. If someone wants to open, say, a Mexican restaurant in a town, what is the point if they cannot serve margaritas? Likewise, a fine-dining steakhouse is not going to want to open in a community where Old Fashioneds or other rail drinks cannot be served. They will go to a neighboring town.

It’s time. The law to limit the number of taverns must change.