September 8, 2017


Joint Finance Committee Update


This week, the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) held its last executive session regarding 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.

The 2017-19 biennial budget has now been submitted 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.

JFC's budget leaves $280 million in Wisconsin's rainy day fund, an additional $14 million in increased revenue, and sets aside nearly $200 million in the ending balance of the budget. This careful budgeting will help ensure Wisconsin continues to prosper and succeed.

This week, the JFC also approved the Special Session bills relating to Foxconn. These have been sent to the Senate for approval, and then they will go to the Assembly to concur in the Senate amendments JFC added. Once both houses approve, the final bill will also go to Governor Walker's desk for final approval.

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

Foxconn:
Foxconn presents a generational opportunity for the state of Wisconsin. Construction on the plant alone has the possibility to create 10,000 jobs, with another 6,000 indirect jobs possible among suppliers. Once fully operational, the plant will employ up to 13,000 people and up to another 22,000 in indirect jobs.

The average salary at the plant will be around $52,000 a year, or around $25 an hour. This is well above the minimum wage and means family-supporting careers for thousands of Wisconsinites. Because of the scale of this project, suppliers could be from all parts of Wisconsin, including the Fox Cities.

Because of past reforms by Governor Walker and the Republican-led legislature throughout the last several years, we are in a position to attract, welcome, and retain global companies like Foxconn to Wisconsin.

On Tuesday, the Committee held an executive session on Foxconn legislation and looked at a number of amendments. The amendments that were brought forward were technical amendments to improve the bill.

Geographic Limit and Hiring Goals for an Electronics and Information Technology Manufacturing Zone (EITM Zone):

  • This amendment prohibits the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) from allowing a business to claim EITM zone payroll credits for services performed outside of Wisconsin.

  • This specifies that before WEDC certifies a business to receive EITM zone capital expenditure credits, it has to attempt to ensure that the business being certified has sought, and is seeking, to satisfy hiring goals in Wisconsin.

I-94 North-South Corridor Project:

  • This amendment authorizes $252,400,000 in general fund-supported general obligation bonds to be used for the I-94 North-South corridor project in southeast Wisconsin. The Department of Transportation (DOT) cannot expend the proceeds of the bonds unless the state receives an award of federal moneys for the I-94 North-South project and submits a request to expend the bond proceeds to JFC.

Department of Transporation (DOT):
The DOT has a biennial budget of nearly $6 billion and is responsible for Wisconsin's state highways, motor vehicle regulation, traffic law enforcement, railroads, harbors, water transportation, transit, and aeronautics.

This week, the committee modified the Governor's budget recommendation for transportation funding by reducing overall bonding levels by almost $100 million. This brings the overall bonding levels to around $400 million over the biennium.

Transportation Highlights:

  • The elimination of 200 DOT positions (many of which are currently vacant) and using the related funding to support the transportation fund.

  • Funding to complete a tolling study which will give future legislatures information regarding the feasibility of tolling in Wisconsin.

  • A new fee on hybrid and electric cars to support $75 million in transportation bonding. This will also ensure that those who pay less in the gas tax will help to maintain Wisconsin's infrastructure.

  • An additional $10 million for the Local Bridge Improvement Assistance Program.

  • Funding for in-vehicle cameras and tactical vests and helmets for the Wisconsin State Patrol.

  • Increasing funding for the Harbor Assistance Program by $3.2 million for a project related to Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding in Door County.

The committee also added a number of reforms to ensure accountability at the DOT for any new revenues received by the transportation fund. These include:

  • The repeal of prevailing wage, which is effective on September 1, 2018.

  • Reform of the Transportation Projects Commission, which is responsible for recommending projects for enumeration. They are directed to study transportation "best practices" in other states, to recommend projects for denumeration, and to evaluate the allocation of transportation funds among different highway funding programs.

Department of Public Instruction (DPI) -- Special Needs Scholarship Program:
The Special Needs Scholarship Program (SNSP) allows students with an individualized education plan (IEP) to attend the public or private school of their choice. The program, created in the 2015-17 budget, transfers $12,000 per student to the receiving school to cover the cost of educational services related to the IEP.

The Committee modified the current program align it more with other school choice programs by removing the prior year open enrollment requirement, the prior year public school enrollment requirement, and providing summer school payments. Both prior year requirements were unnecessary, bureaucratic hoops families had to jump through to participate in the program. Providing summer school payments for SNSP brings the program up to speed with the choice and charter programs.

Finally, the Committee amended the program to allow receiving schools to receive more than $12,000 per student in the SNSP if the receiving school shows it incurred additional costs as a result of educating a student with an IEP. No payment will be less than $12,000, and the ability to receive additional funds is entirely optional. This change attempts to address the financial burden that some school districts face and provides students with special needs with access to open enrollment and the school of their choice.

Department of Revenue (DOR):
DOR advises the Governor and Legislature on tax policy; administers that state’s tax law, lottery, and unclaimed property program; distributes property tax relief and local unrestricted aid payments; and oversees general administration of the property tax system.

Below are the highlights from both tax-related motions.

Shared Revenue, Tax Relief, Local Government and Budget Management:

  • Partial Property Tax Repeal - Beginning January 1, 2018, non-manufacturing machinery, tools, and patterns will be excluded from the personal property tax. To hold municipalities harmless, the state will provide $74.4M to offset the exemption.

  • Property Taxes - Provide $48M over the biennium to keep property taxes below 2014 levels.

  • Municipal Levy Limit Referenda - Require more accountability when municipalities hold referenda.

  • Joint Provision of Local Government Services - Explicitly allow counties to share services so that services may be more efficiently delivered to constituents.

  • Lodging Marketplace Sales and Room Tax Collections - Expand the applicability of local room tax to owners of short-term rentals (i.e., Airbnb).

General Fund Taxes, Revenue, Public Finance Authority:

  • Beginning in 2019, repealed the alternative minimum tax.

  • Removed the Governor’s recommended changes to the earned income tax credit, which would have expanded the current program.

  • Restored current law for the Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit program and modified the program to implement a $5M per project cap beginning July 1, 2018. The program offers tax credits to developers for renovating certain historic buildings.

  • Require DOR to use statistical sampling when conducting financial audits of small businesses. This will reduce the burdensome process of audits for businesses that cannot afford the cost or time of lengthy and demanding audits.

WRAP-UP:
The Committee also adopted a wrap up motion, Motion 421, that included several technical fixes to previous Committee actions, as well as other items with support from the Committee and Assembly Republicans.

Here are a few highlights from the motion:

  • Moved up the previously approved pay raises for state employees. Employees will now get 2% raises on July 1, 2018, and January 1, 2019. Previously, employees were scheduled to receive 2% pay raises on September 30, 2018, and May 26, 2019.

  • Modified previous Committee action to provide $500,000 for grants to law enforcement agencies to fund crowd-control training and equipment.


Guest Column: Grant to the Appleton International Airport


This week, the Joint Committee on Finance adopted a provision we put forward to dedicate $1.7 million toward the Appleton International Airport for the design and construction of an Airport Rescue and Firefighting (ARFF) training facility.

The Federal Aviation Administration requires that each of the more than 500 airports in the U.S. that serve passenger airplanes sends its firefighters to an annual ARFF training. There are 19 sites nationally that can provide this type of training. Upon passage of the state budget, there will be 20. The new site in Appleton will be the only one in the entire Midwest, including both the Great Lakes and Great Plains regions.

The facility in Appleton has more to boast than just geography, however. Fox Valley Technical College (FVTC) has a state-of-the-art training center adjacent to the airport that served 20,000 students from 43 states last year alone. The existing FVTC firefighting curriculum lays a solid foundation upon which ARFF curriculum can be expanded. The partnership with FVTC, the proximity of local businesses directly related to airport fire and rescue, the lodging and hospitality services of the Fox Cities, and the demonstrated need for this type of facility in the Midwest, all spell out a fantastic deal for the state of Wisconsin.

The Appleton area members of the state Assembly are excited to announce this funding in the budget. The construction of this ARFF training facility makes Wisconsin the ideal location for fire and rescue training, and in particular will set the Fox Valley Technical College and the Appleton community apart as national leaders in aviation safety.

Six members of the Wisconsin State Assembly from the Fox Cities region lent their support to the ARFF training proposal. These members are: Rep. Dave Murphy (R-Greenville), Rep. Mike Rohrkaste (R-Neenah), Rep. Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna), Rep. Amanda Stuck (D-Appleton), Rep. Gary Tauchen (R-Bonduel), and Rep. Ron Tusler (R-Harrison).


Never Forget!


Next Monday, September 11th, will mark the 16th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and the crash of United Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

It is important that we continue to remember the events that transpired that day and the impact it had on Americans and people across the globe. Thousands of innocent lives were lost on September 11th, and countless thousands more were impacted. The heroism of many that day will always outweigh the cowardly deeds of the few. Please join me this Monday in remembering and paying tribute to those that lost their lives that day.

Mike


Watch for Charity Scams in Aftermath of Hurricane Harvey & Irma


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, and Hurricane Irma.

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 www.charitynavigator.org or www.give.org.
• 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: DFICharitableOrgs@wisconsin.gov.

For additional information or to file a complaint, visit the Consumer Protection Bureau at http://datcp.wi.gov, send an e-mail to DATCPHotline@wisconsin.gov 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.
 

 
     

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State Capitol Room 321 East - PO Box 8953, Madison, WI 53708
(608) 266-5719
Email: Rep.Rohrkaste@legis.wisconsin.gov