They served in tanks.
They survived the Tet Offensive.
They signed up to do their duty.
But when they returned home, people treated them poorly, and few back in the States ever said, “Thank you and welcome home.”
On Thursday, Vietnam-era veterans and Gold Star families who lost loved ones in the war were honored at the Independence Day celebration at Beloit’s Riverside Park. The Beloit Janesville Symphony Orchestra played patriotic favorites as the veterans walked on stage to receive medallions that said “Welcome home, thank you for your service to our nation.”
For many veterans, it was about time.
Jim Wilson enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in communications from 1971-72.
“We came home and got an unwelcome ceremony at O’Hare Airport,” Wilson said.
The hallways were lined with protesters shouting and swearing at him, he said.
“It was brutal,” Wilson said. “We had to walk all the way from the airplane through all those protesters all the way down to get our baggage.”
All he could think was, “I’m just like you guys.”
Except instead of taking his chances on his draft number or “running to Canada,” he enlisted so he would have more control over his job choices.
Thursday’s ceremony was long overdue, but Wilson appreciated it.
“You know, you go to Memorial Day parades, and the veterans salute each other,” Wilson said. “But this is different because everybody is really recognizing us. We never really got recognized when we came home.”
Charles Wilson, no relation to Jim Wilson, was a U.S. Army tanker. He served in Vietnam in 1968 and 1969.
It was his mother and father who got him through the worst times in Vietnam. His father was a Baptist minister, and his mother used to write him letters. They always included a Bible verse. He also kept a small Bible with him.
“It was those letters from home that kept me going,” Charles Wilson said.
Like his fellow vets, he was treated terribly at the airport, he said. When they landed in San Francisco, they changed out of their uniforms. It was a way to reduce the amount of abuse that came their way.
Thursday was important to him.
“It’s about time they did something for the Vietnam vets,” Charles Wilson said. “This is the first time I can recall that we got some recognition.”
Keith Royce was a farm boy who lived outside of Beloit when he got drafted Nov. 2, 1965. He ended up going to officer candidate school and received a commission as a second lieutenant in the military police.
“I spent some time in Fort Gordon, Georgia, but I went to Vietnam in January 1968, and two weeks later, Tet happened,” Royce said.
The Tet Offensive was one of the largest military operations of the Vietnam War.
Royce was in charge of a platoon of military policemen with the 198th Light Infantry Brigade. They also patrolled the inner coastal waterways in Boston Whalers. It was on one of those patrols that he was hit by a sniper. The other time he was wounded was during a mortar attack on a base camp.
Royce recently returned from a VetsRoll trip, which was a “fabulous time.”
“I had tears in my eyes because I was so impressed,” Royce said.
Thursday made an impression on him, too.
Some of the people in the audience were his age, but it was primarily made up of his generation’s children and their grandchildren.
“They’re all out here honoring us,” Royce said. “That’s really neat.”
Mercyhealth announced Wednesday that some of its patients’ personal information might have been compromised last fall.
There is no evidence anyone’s information was misused, but an email security breach at a company that worked for Mercyhealth was discovered in December, according to a news release issued by Mercyhealth late Wednesday afternoon.
The company, OS Inc., had the information because it updated addresses of Medicare beneficiaries for Mercyhealth in 2015 and has handled Mercyhealth’s billing for dialysis services, the release states.
“The types of information potentially impacted by the incident did not include financial or clinical information. However, OS will be directly notifying potentially affected patients,” according to the release.
The information that might have been accessed includes names, dates of birth, dates of service, patient identification numbers, Social Security numbers in the form of an insurance identification number and, for a limited number of people, medical record numbers, the release states.
The release does not say how many people’s information was exposed. Mercyhealth officials were not immediately available for comment.
The release says Mercyhealth “recently” learned of the problem.
OS learned of “suspicious activity” in one employee’s email account around Dec. 21, and OS immediately changed the employee’s email credentials, notified law enforcement and launched an investigation, according to the release.
“OS also began working with forensic experts to determine the nature and scope of the suspicious activity,” according to the release, and on Feb. 20 the company confirmed that an “unauthorized individual gained access to the employee’s email account from Oct. 15, 2018, through Dec. 21, 2018, utilizing account credentials obtained through a phishing email campaign.”
Forensic experts were unable to confirm the specific messages or attachments within the email account that might have been subject to unauthorized access or acquisition, but OS began a review “to confirm the identities of the individuals whose information may have been accessible to the unauthorized individual,” the release states.
On May 21, OS provided Mercy a list of the patients whose information might have been accessible within the email account, according to the release.
Those being notified of the problem are “patients for whom OS has a valid mailing address,” according to the release.
Notifications will include steps people can take to protect themselves against potential fraud or identity theft, according to the release.
“In the current security environment, everyone should be regularly monitoring credit reports, account statements and benefit statements,” the release continues. “Suspicious activity should be reported to the entity with which the account is maintained and proper law enforcement authorities.”
OS has told Mercy that OS has taken action “to help prevent this type of incident from occurring in the future.”
Gov. Tony Evers thwarted Republicans with a series of budget vetoes Wednesday that steered an additional $65 million toward schools, canceled plans for a new prison and restored state funding for Milwaukee’s child welfare system.
In acting on his first state budget, the Democratic governor also scaled back funding to enforce drug testing and work requirements in the state’s food assistance program. Evers also eliminated a budget provision aimed at appeasing a GOP lawmaker that would have allowed Tesla to sell its electric vehicles directly to consumers.
Evers kept an income tax cut for the middle class that both he and Republicans wanted but wiped out GOP plans to lower vehicle registration fees for some truck owners. Evers retained Republican plans to raise other vehicle fees.
In all, Evers’ 78 vetoes were a reminder that Wisconsin gives its governors some of the most sweeping executive powers in the country and gives them the upper hand in budget negotiations. Wisconsin governors can strike out words and numbers, allowing them to structure parts of the state’s spending plans in ways lawmakers did not intend.
In a 65-page veto message, Evers wrote that he strongly considered vetoing the entire budget because he did not think Republicans allocated enough money for schools. He decided against that option because he had pledged he “would put politics aside to get things done,” he wrote.
“Unfortunately, this budget that I have now signed is, in many ways, insufficient,” he wrote.
“This is, in large part, due to the unfortunate lack of interest by some Republicans in the Legislature to work together and engage in constructive, bipartisan dialogue, and instead devoting far too much time to huffing and puffing. … I believe the people of our state would have been better off in this budget if we could have found more common ground, even if it meant each of us not getting everything we wanted.”
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau expressed concern about some of the vetoes but mostly claimed victory.
“He basically signed a Republican version of the budget today,” Fitzgerald said.
With his vetoes, Evers gave schools an additional $570 million over two years, or $65 million more than Republicans approved.
Evers, a former state schools superintendent, made funding for K-12 education a centerpiece of his campaign for governor last year. With his budget vetoes, he was seeking as much additional money for schools as he could find because Republicans gave them far less than the $1.4 billion he sought.
Evers used his veto powers to restore $14 million to Milwaukee County for child welfare services. County officials said the money was essential, while Republicans said they believed the state was paying more than it should for child welfare services in the state’s most populous county.
Evers also vetoed a part of the budget that would have provided $5 million to initiate plans to replace the 121-year-old Green Bay Correctional Institution. Building a new prison could ultimately cost more than $300 million.
Evers reduced funding for work requirements and drug screening for people who participate in the FoodShare program. Evers tried to get rid of the work requirements entirely in his initial budget, but lawmakers wouldn’t allow him to do that. By lowering funding, Evers will make the state’s enforcement of the work requirements and drug screening less robust than what Republicans wanted.
Evers said he would prevent people who have children from losing their FoodShare benefits if they don’t meet the work requirement.
Republicans say the work requirement will help ease people off of FoodShare, but Evers views it as a thinly cloaked way to prevent poor families from getting nutrition.
Evers wrote in his veto message that the work requirement “does not appropriately balance the needs for parental involvement in children’s lives, the demands of the workforce and the costs of expenses like child care.”
But Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said the veto was in line with others that he considered a political statement.
“These vetoes remove dollars from important programs, give more spending authority to government bureaucrats and allow people to cheat the system by not following the welfare reforms we passed,” Vos said in a statement.
Evers changed a part of the budget affecting new lockups that are meant to replace Lincoln Hills School for Boys, the troubled juvenile prison north of Wausau that officials plan to close in 2021.
Some of the new facilities would be run by the state and others by counties. Republicans transferred funding meant for the state facilities to the county facilities and attempted to leave no funding for the state facilities.
With his budget actions, Evers authorized $23 million in borrowing for the state facilities, $80 million for the county facilities and $59 million for an expansion of Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center, which houses Lincoln Hills residents who have mental health issues.
To get the additional borrowing for those facilities, Evers took $37 million that would have gone to other projects, including a proposed regional crisis center in northern Wisconsin.
The plans to build facilities to replace Lincoln Hills will need final approval from the state Building Commission, which is jointly controlled by Republicans and Democrats.
The governor used his veto powers to provide $10 million in subsidies to establish charging stations for electric vehicles. The stations would be funded using money from a national court settlement with Volkswagen over fraudulent practices with emissions control equipment. Under the settlement, the funds must be used to reduce emissions.
Another $15 million in settlement money would be used to buy more fuel-efficient buses. Republicans wanted all the settlement money to go to buses instead of charging stations.
Evers also vetoed a section of the budget that would have prevented the state from spending more on annual security for his lieutenant governor, Mandela Barnes, than it did for Republican Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch during her last year in office.
Republicans put that measure into the budget in response to reports that Barnes’ security costs have greatly exceeded Kleefisch’s. Evers has said he believes the State Patrol’s security team should have free rein to determine how much protection state officials should have.
Evers also struck out a part of the budget that would require the state to conduct a review of security at the state Capitol. The state was to get help from the Madison Police Department for the study, but Republicans who added the study to the budget did not consult with the department about it in advance.
Evers also blocked a budget measure that would limit the ability of local governments to oversee quarries. In 2017, then-Gov. Scott Walker vetoed a similar proposal.
In another change, Evers left it to his administration—instead of lawmakers—to decide where to assign 35 new assistant district attorneys. GOP legislators tried to place the prosecutors in specific counties and excluded Milwaukee County from their plans.
The $81.7 billion budget reduces the state’s lowest two income tax brackets. When coupled with other legislation Evers signed Wednesday, the budget would reduce income taxes on average by $75 per person in 2019 and by $136 in 2020.
Evers wanted a deeper income tax cut—$216 per person on average—but also wanted to raise taxes on manufacturers and capital gains.
Republicans in February passed a similar income tax cut, but Evers vetoed it. He said then that any tax cuts should be considered as part of budget deliberations and should include the higher taxes for manufacturers.
Under the budget, property taxes on a home valued at $167,000 would go up $55 in 2019 and $45 in 2020.
The budget will make it more difficult to balance the state’s next spending plan in two years, especially if the economy goes into recession. That’s because the budget Evers approved will leave about $115 million in the state’s general fund by June 2021—enough to fund the state’s operations for about two days.
The budget spends hundreds of millions of dollars more in 2021 than the state is expected to receive in revenue through taxes and other sources, according to an analysis released this week by the nonpartisan Wisconsin Policy Forum.
“After making progress in recent years compared to other states, Wisconsin would likely return to its past status as a state with a smaller-than-average financial cushion,” the analysis said.
Missing in the state budget are a number of promises for schools made by both Evers and the Republican Legislature, including restoring the state’s commitment to funding two-thirds of school districts’ costs.
Evers proposed a funding plan that would provide more than two-thirds funding, but Republicans didn’t go along.
Evers’ campaign for governor focused heavily on increasing spending for schools and changing the way state funds are distributed to them by giving more to schools that have more students living in poverty.
But the budget he ultimately approved doesn’t accomplish much of what he wanted. While spending increases for schools, the education budget doesn’t keep pace with inflation. And Republicans removed from the budget Evers’ plan to change the school funding formula.
Evers used his veto powers to provide an additional $87 million for schools. But he also trimmed K-12 funding elsewhere by eliminating a requirement that the state provide computers to high school students—a priority for Vos.
In all, Evers provided $65 million more for schools than what Republicans allocated.
The budget gives an additional $58 million to UW schools for their programs, which is about half what Evers wanted. Evers and Republicans agreed on providing about $1 billion to the UW System for building upgrades and new construction on campuses.
The budget keeps in place a freeze on in-state tuition that started in 2013. Evers supports the freeze but has said campuses need more taxpayer money to keep up with rising costs.
The spending plan will put $588 million in new state funding toward health care programs over the next two years. Republicans rejected Evers’ plan to take an additional $1 billion in federal funds through the Affordable Care Act to make BadgerCare Plus available to 82,000 more people and free up $324 million in state money.
To help pay for roads, the budget increases the title fee people pay when they buy vehicles by $95, from $69.50 to $164.50.
It also raises the annual registration fee by $10 for cars (from $75 to $85) and $25 for many light trucks (from $75 to $100). Republicans planned to cut the registration fee for light trucks weighing 8,000 pounds or more, but Evers used vetoes to keep them at their current level ($106 or $155, depending on weight).
Evers initially sought to raise the gas tax by nearly a dime a gallon over two years, but Republicans rejected that idea. They also threw out Evers’ plan to increase fees on semis by 27% to pay for roads.
With one veto, Evers spiked GOP plans to spend $2.5 million to study implementing tolling or other mileage-based fees on vehicles. Evers called the study unnecessary after years of research on how to fund roads.
To help secure the budget vote of GOP Sen. Chris Kapenga of Delafield last week, Republican leaders added the last-minute amendment changing how Tesla sells its vehicles. Kapenga has sponsored such legislation and asked for it to be tucked into the budget.
He owns a business that sells salvaged Tesla vehicles and Tesla parts, but he has described the company as primarily a hobby and said allowing Tesla to sell vehicles directly to consumers would not improve his bottom line.
Kapenga voted for the budget, which passed the Senate 17-16. Evers torpedoed the Tesla provision with a veto.
Evers, who declared 2019 to be the “year of clean drinking water,” failed to persuade Republicans to spend as much money as he wanted on an array of water programs.
GOP lawmakers reduced bonding by a total of $68 million for water projects, according to a memorandum from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.
The biggest cuts in borrowing were the elimination in $40 million to replace lead water pipes in communities, including Milwaukee, and $21 million to pay for the cleanup of contaminated sediments. These toxic areas include spots in the Milwaukee River watershed.
Evers had the ability to veto the entire budget, but doing so would have sparked a fight with Republicans lawmakers that likely would have lasted months. In the meantime, schools and health care programs wouldn’t get any increases.
No governor has vetoed an entire budget since the state adopted its current budgeting system in 1931.
Evers acted on the budget two days after the July 1 start date of the two-year budget cycle. The last budget was delayed by three months because Republicans who controlled state government at the time couldn’t agree on how much to spend on highways.
Evers’ vetoes were not as creative as some of those issued by Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson and Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle.
Evers doesn’t have as much flexibility as those two governors did because voters over the years have amended the state constitution to curtail the veto powers of governors. Thompson was able to use the “Vanna White veto”—named for the “Wheel of Fortune” hostess—to remove letters from words to create new words. He and Doyle were able to use the “Frankenstein veto” to string together parts of two or more sentences to create a new sentence.
Delores A. Crook
Ronald Roy Petterson
Mary Elizabeth Wright