May 19, 2017

 

JFC Executive Session Update


 

The Joint Finance Committee continued their Executive Session work on the budget this week, taking up a number of important areas.

Tuesday's session: Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Board, Kickapoo Reserve Management Board, State Fair Park, Elections Commission, Ethics Commission, Administration -- General Agency Provisions, Health Services -- Care and Treatment Services, Children and Families -- Departmentwide, Children and Families -- Child Support

Thursday's session: Labor and Industry Review Commission, Wisconsin Technical College System, Historical Society, Shared Revenue -- Direct Aid Payments, Shared Revenue -- Property Tax Credits, Shared Revenue -- Property Taxation, Shared Revenue -- Local Revenue Options

Tuesday Highlights:

  • Elections Commission - Voted to add 5 new positions to help administer election law across the state. This increase in positions will help the Commission ensure our elections are fair and free of fraud.

  • DOA: Hearings and Appeals - Approved Governorís recommendations allowing Division of Hearing and Appeals to transmit electronic copies of administrative proceedings to courts, but removed recommendation to allow for electronic recordings of workerís compensation hearings. Instead, the issue will be studied to ensure proper implementation.

  • DHS: Youth Crisis Stabilization Facilities - Created definition and certification process for youth crisis stabilization facilities. Sometimes these facilities are a better option for young people struggling with mental health issues. Provided $1,245,500 in funding for the facilities on a one-time basis and required DHS to include a plan for ongoing grant funding in its 2019-21 budget request.

  • DHS: Peer-Run Respite Centers for Veterans - Governor proposed funding to establish a peer-run respite center that provides services to veterans who suffer from mental health or addiction issues. The Committee voted to modify the Governorís recommendation to ensure the Department budgets for this center in the future, and created a new sum certain appropriation for the center in 2018-19 to ensures it is being funded appropriately.

  • DHS: Sex Offender Placement - Approved changes to the residency placement portion of the supervised release program for sexually violent persons. The changes create a new authority which will give the home county more local control with these placements.

  • DHS: Combating Child Sex Trafficking - Increased funding for services for victims of child sex trafficking from $4M to $6M over the biennium.

  • DHS: Runaway Services - Republican members of the Committee voted to increase funding for child runaway services by $100,000.
     

Thursday Highlights:

  • Labor Industry Review Commission - Voted to keep the commission in place, but reduce positions that are currently vacant due to a decreased caseload.

  • Technical College System - The committee declined to adopt the Governor's proposed tuition cut for the tech college system and instead reallocated $5 million from the cut to needs based scholarships for tech college students. The Governor's proposed changes to the performance based funding model that has been in place since 2014-15 were also rejected by the committee. Finally, the Educational Approval Board (EAB), which approves and supervises for-profit and some non-profit institutions, was moved under the authority of the Department of Safety and Professional Services. All positions under the EAB will be transferred in the move as well. 

  • Historical Society - Governor Walker's proposal did not fully fund the anticipated lease costs for the State Archive and Preservation Facility so the committee worked with the DOA to lower the lease charge rate to more accurately reflect lease costs. The committee also approved the Governor's recommendation to operate Circus World Museum as a historical site within the Historical Society.

  • Shared Revenue: Personal Property Tax - The committee adopted a motion that removed the requirement for businesses to calculate and report the property value of computers for aid payments. Instead, municipalities will receive reimbursement increases at the rate of inflation. The committee also modified the Governor's proposal regarding Volkswagen settlement funds. Instead of providing $16 million for state fleet replacement and $26 million for Milwaukee to replace aging transit buses, the committee provided $6 million for state fleet replacement and $32 million in funding for municipalities to finance the cost of eligible transit vehicles.

  • Shared Revenue: Property Tax Credits - The Governor proposed realigning the Homestead Tax Credit with its original intent by limiting eligibility to individuals over the age of 62, individuals with a disability, or individuals with earned income. This proposal was adopted by the committee

  • Shared Revenue: Property Taxation - Current law allows municipalities to increase levies to make debt service payments on debt issued before 2005. After the debt has been retired the municipalities are not required to lower its levy back to the previous amount. The committee approved the Governor's recommendation to require municipalities to lower levies back to the original amount once the debt is retired. This will lower property taxes in various municipalities.

Next Executive Session:


State Leasing Reforms


 

The state of Wisconsin spends a lot of money each year on infrastructure to house its employees, equipment, and programs. Depending on the program or agency's needs, some of the buildings are owned by the state, while others are leased. Currently, we spend roughly $60m a year on state leases. In an effort to continue making government more efficient and cost-effective, we are currently looking at legislation to reform state leasing practices.

This week in the State Affairs Committee, we voted in favor of AB 205, a bill from Rep. Hutton that will help ensure we're not overpaying.

 

The most egregious example of state government signing a bad lease is the Department of Corrections Headquarters here in Madison. The annual lease payment for the building is $4,955,044. In 2005, Governor Doyle extended the lease until 2016. In 2009, he inexplicably extended the lease again until 2021. By the time this lease is up, the state will have spent nearly $50m between 2010-2020 to lease a building that is only worth $14m. This is a bad deal, and the state should do better.

 

AB 205 create safeguards to help prevent another DOC Headquarters situation:

  • Requires any lease over $500,000 to be signed by the Department of Administration Secretary or the Governor

  • DOA must review comparable properties within a 10-mile radius to ensure that proposed lease doesn't exceed market rates by more than 5%. An amendment to the bill would allow DOA to look past the 10-mile radius if there are no comparable properties.

  • Require cost-benefit analysis to determine if purchasing the property instead of leasing would be cheaper in the long-run.

  • Any leases would be subject to a passive review from the Legislative Joint Finance Committee. This provides a little bit of legislative oversight to the process.

This is a common-sense piece of legislation that will help save taxpayer dollars in the future. I supported it in the State Affairs Committee and look forward to supporting it on the floor of the Assembly.

 


Community Events


Menomonee Falls

Event: Police Memorial Day Service

Date and Time: May 21st 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM

Location: Taylor Park

Description: Join Menomonee Falls Police Department for the Police Memorial Day Service held to honor and remember those who have given their lives in service to their communities.

Brown Deer

       Event: Eat and Greet on the Street

       Date and Time: June 3rd 12:00 PM to 9:00 PM

       Location: Original Village of Brown Deer

       Description: Eat & Greet on the Street is a block party to celebrate the completion of the Original Village Streetscaping project. Featuring local bands, community groups, artisan marketplace, games and activities.

 Germantown Area

Event: Mai Fest 2017

Date and Time: May 19th through 21st

Location: Friedenfeld Park

Description: See website for additional details and calendar.

 

           
   
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