September 1st, 2017

Joint Finance Committee Update

On Monday, the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) was back in executive session to continue deliberations on the 2017-19 biennial budget. During these sessions, members of the committee debate and vote on specific provisions from Governor Walker's budget proposal. The goal of these sessions is to improve upon what the Governor has proposed while taking into consideration public input.

Once we have concluded executive sessions, we will submit a complete budget to both the Senate and the Assembly for approval. If both houses approve the budget, it will go to Governor Walker's desk for final approval.

Under consideration on Monday were two of the largest appropriations in the biennial budget: the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) and the capital budget. DPI has a biennial budget of over $7.2 billion, about $5.8 billion of which is state aid to local school districts. DPI is the single largest appropriation, and the department received a large boost in the current biennial budget.

Here is an update with some of the highlights from the session this week:

Department of Public Instruction - K-12:
Under this budget, Assembly Republicans continue to deliver results. The new DPI budget shows Republicans are committed to ALL Wisconsin students and schools. The Joint Finance Committee approved a historic boost to K-12 education by approving a $639 million increase. This is the largest investment to public education in Wisconsin's history. This budget puts more dollars directly into the classroom and invests in students across Wisconsin. I am proud to have voted in favor of this proposal in the Joint Finance Committee because it continues our commitment to K-12 education and students, parents, and faculty in Wisconsin.

Spends More Money Directly in the Classroom:
-Voted to increase state aid to school districts by over $600 million.
     - Provides an additional $200 per pupil in FY 18 and $204 per pupil in FY 19.
     - Protects the investment of taxpayers' money by directing the additional money directly to the classroom
-Approved $9.2 million in matching funds to help schools purchase computers for all high school students.

Gives Every Students the Tools They Need to Succeed:
-The committee voted to dedicate $3.7 million to a newly created performance funding aid program to help failing schools districts improve.
-Approved a new program to improve summer school programming in failing schools districts to help students who have fallen behind.
-Continue to fund the Robotics League Participation Grant program created last session. This program is utilized by school districts across Wisconsin and is helping to create the engineers of tomorrow.
-Approved the Early College Credit program to help high school students take college courses while in high school, cutting down on time-to-degree and college tuition costs.

Focuses on Retaining and Rewarding Great Teachers:
-Creates a lifetime license for teachers and administrators who complete six semesters of successful experience.
-Simplifies the licensure system to make it more flexible and responsive to meet individual school district workforce needs.
-Helps rural school districts by providing $1 million to connect them with future teachers. This will be especially helpful in rural schools districts facing teacher shortages.

Expands Educational Services:
-Provides $6.1 million to fully fund the Special Education Transitions Incentive Grant, which rewards school districts for connecting students with special needs to meaningful employment or postsecondary education.
-Approved $1.5 million for a new Special Education Transition Readiness Grant to help school districts build the capacity to connect students to potential jobs and postsecondary education.
-Provides $3 million for School Mental Health Aid to reimburse schools for costs related to providing mental health services to students.
-Provides $3.25 million for Community and School Mental Health Collaboration Grants to help schools connect with area health providers to meet students’ needs.

Holds Property Taxes in Check:
-This budget keeps property taxes lower than they were in 2010, 2014, and today.
-Reforms the scheduling of school referenda to hold school districts accountable to taxpayers.

Building Commission:
The committee worked to improve upon Governor Walker's proposal and increased our investment in our government and university infrastructure. Maintaining our infrastructure now will save the state more money in the long term. The program approved on Monday represents a $1 billion investment in Wisconsin's government and university buildings.

UW System:
-The committee voted to add additional projects for the UW System so that we can continue to invest in our engineering workforce and necessary maintenance. The committee approved the following projects, in addition to what Governor Walker proposed:

• Eau Claire - Governors Hall Addition and Renovation
• Madison - Parking Lot 62 Ramp Replacement
• Madison - Lathrop Drive/Bascom Hill Utility Repairs - Phase I
• Parkside - Wyllie Hall Renovation - Phase I
• Platteville - Boebel Hall Addition and Renovation (Science Building) - Phase II
• Platteville - New Sesquicentennial Hall (Engineering Building)
• River Falls - May Hall Addition and Renovation

The Committee will hold its next Executive Session on Tuesday, September 5th, on the following issues:

-Public Instruction -- Special Needs Scholarship Program
-Transportation -- Transportation Finance
-Transportation -- Local Transportation Aid
-Transportation -- Local Transportation Assistance
-Transportation -- State Highway Program
-Transportation -- Motor Vehicles
-Transportation -- State Patrol
-Transportation -- Departmentwide
-Revenue -- Departmentwide
-Revenue -- Tax Administration
-General Fund Taxes -- Income and Franchise Taxes
-General Fund Taxes -- Sales and Excise Taxes
-General Fund Taxes -- Other Tax Provisions
-School Levy Tax Credit
-Lottery Fund
-Transfer Funds to Budget Stabilization Fund

Watch for Charity Scams in Aftermath of Hurricane Harvey

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) is urging consumers to do their research before sending money to a charity claiming to help those affected by Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey.

Fake charity schemes will use any available means of soliciting “donations” — they may make their pitch over the phone, by mail or online. They will often use names and website addresses that are nearly identical to those of major established charities, so pay close attention to the wording in a donation pitch. Keep in mind that most legitimate charity websites end in “.org” rather than “.com”.

Consider the following tips to protect yourself from charity scammers:

• Watch for social network messages, e-mails, or text messages that claim to have exclusive information or photos. Clicking on attachments or clicking links in these communications can expose your computer or phone to malicious software.
• Look up charities by name at or
• Use caution with any charities that popped up since the incident. Research who will administer the funds, how they will be used and if donations are tax-deductible.
• Be leery of high-pressure pitches and requests to wire money.
• Avoid donating cash or wiring money to people or organizations you don’t know.
• If you are donating via a public fundraising website (often called “crowdfunding”), review the site’s safety and security policies before making a payment. While these sites typically have a number of safeguards in place for users, understand that there is no way to guarantee that the information posted is completely accurate or truthful.
• If you question the legitimacy of a charity, seek out contact information for the operation rather than using the contact information provided in the pitch or search listing.

Under Wisconsin state law, most organizations soliciting for charitable donations must register and file an annual report with the Department of Financial Institutions (DFI). To check if a charity is registered, visit the DFI website or email:

For additional information or to file a complaint, visit the Consumer Protection Bureau at, send an e-mail to or call the Consumer Protection Hotline toll-free at 1-800-422-7128.

Legislative Website

If you are interested in learning more about bills that I have authored, co-sponsored, or voted on, please click here.  This link will take you directly to my Wisconsin State Legislative page.  Also, if you are interested in viewing my office website, click here.


As always, if you have any comments or thoughts regarding the subject of this
E-Update, please feel free to contact me.

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State Capitol Room 321 East - PO Box 8953, Madison, WI 53708
(608) 266-5719