September 15, 2017


State Assembly Approves Biennial Budget!


It was another busy week in Madison. On Wednesday, the state Assembly passed the 2017-19 biennial budget Then, on Thursday, the state Assembly was back in session to take our last vote on Foxconn legislation. Once again, I voted in favor of the legislation, along with a large bipartisan group of my colleagues. Both pieces of legislation create great opportunity for Wisconsinites and residents of the Fox Cities, and I am proud to support both.

Below is my statement following the passage of the biennial budget. Also, if you would like to view a video message from me regarding the budget passage, please click here.

Because of prudent decisions in the past, Republicans have been able to accomplish significant cost-saving reforms in this budget while at the same time delivering tax relief and a massive investment in K-12 and college education. This budget invests in Wisconsin’s students, teachers, and school districts by providing a historic increase in state aid of $639 million. It also provides $16 million in new dollars for special education and mental health services for students in schools. These increases will ensure that all students in Wisconsin receive an effective education, no matter where they live.

The 2017-19 state budget further provides opportunities to those seeking new and better careers through increased worker training funding of $11.5 million and $15 million in financial aid for students seeking a technical or four-year college degree. This budget also freezes tuition for another two years for in-state undergraduate students. The current freeze has already saved the average student $6,300 over the last four years.

In this budget, Republicans have shown once again that we are determined to invest in our workforce, our K-12 and higher education students, and deliver tax relief for middle-class Wisconsinites. This budget completely eliminates the state portion of the property tax and repeals a portion of the personal property tax, which is an overly burdensome tax paid by many small business owners throughout Wisconsin. Additionally, this budget delivers on the promise that the average median-value home will have a lower property tax burden today than it did in 2010 or 2014.

Regarding transportation funding, this budget reduces borrowing, increases construction efficiencies to reduce costs, provides more funding to local roads and bridges, and still keeps our major projects going including the critical 441 Interchange in the Fox Cities. Also, I personally fought for the inclusion of the Airport Rescue and Fire Fighting training facility at the Appleton International Airport, which will bring new economic development to the Fox Cities. While we still need a long-term fix for transportation, this budget provides significant improvements for our roads in the next two years.  

Budgets are about priorities, and we have focused on education, roads, and tax and cost-saving reforms. I will keep up the fight for families in the Fox Cities and make sure Wisconsin continues to be a great place to live, work and enjoy life.

The budget bill will now head to the state Senate for consideration before going to Governor Walker to be signed into law.

Budget Highlights:

EDUCATION
Every child in Wisconsin deserves an effective education. This budget delivers just that, ensuring that every student in our state receives an education that prepares them for the future. This budget puts more dollars in the classroom and provides more resources to students, teachers, and school districts.
• Provides a historic increase in state aid to local school districts of $639 million
     o Provides an additional $200 per pupil in the 2018 fiscal year and $204 per pupil in the 2019 fiscal year
     o Protects Wisconsin taxpayers by putting this money directly into the classroom
• Creates a lifetime license for teachers and administrators who complete six semesters of successful experience
• Provides more than $16 million in new money for special education and mental health services

TAXES
YOU, the hard-working residents of Wisconsin deserve a break, and you don't need state government taking more of YOUR hard-earned money.
• No increase in sales, property or income taxes
• Eliminates the entire state portion of your property tax bill
• Keeps property taxes lower than they were in 2010, 2014 and today
• Protects taxpayers by limiting referenda to regularly-scheduled elections with maximum of two referenda a year
• Partial repeal of the personal property tax (Jan. 1, 2018) for small businesses which have to deal with this overly burdensome and complex tax

HIGHER ED/WORKER TRAINING
This budget provides students and workers with access to the training and resources they need to have a successful career.
• Freezes tuition for another two years for in-state undergraduate students (the current tuition freeze has saved the average student $6,300 over the last four years)
• Enumerates engineering-related projects for the UW System to meet workforce needs
• Increases financial aid to our students by $15 million

• Increases worker training grants - $11.5 million for Fast Forward grants, $1 million for Career and Technical Education grants, and $1 million for grants to help school districts buy technical education equipment
• Increases accountability through performance funding, a teacher work load assessment, and an independent audit of the UW System
• $20 million in worker training grants for Foxconn legislation
• Increase workforce readiness through the drug testing program in Wisconsin Works

TRANSPORTATION
Safe and reliable highways are essential for families, businesses and our economy. This budget makes a significant investment in our infrastructure, but only allows what we can pay for. I will continue to fight for a long-term transportation solution, and this budget is a step in the right direction.
• Reduces reliance on bonding with the lowest level of transportation bonding in over a decade
• Adopts new reforms, including repealing the prevailing wage on state projects
• Increases accountability to reduce Department of Transportation size and project costs
• Increases oversight of the recommended highway projects
• Establishes a new user fee on hybrid & electric cars to support $75 million in bonding
• Funds research on tolling as a long-term funding option
• Increases funding for local road aids

HELPING OUR MOST VULNERABLE POPULATIONS
Every Wisconsinite should have access to the American Dream no matter what their circumstances are.
• Invests in programs to increase access and improve long-term care services: personal care rate increase (2% each year), investments in dementia care specialists, Family Care, and increases Disproportionate Share Hospital payments
• Provides additional funding for Child Psychiatry Consultation Program
• Protects the unborn: requires DHS to conduct audit of Medicaid planning payments to Planned Parenthood and other providers
• Provides $490,000 annually to UW Carbone Center to increase access for cancer patients
• Fully funds Medicaid to help provide medical care for poor and elderly populations
• Increases funding for grants to help victims of violence and abuse

FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY
This budget ensures that the State of Wisconsin is spending YOUR tax dollars efficiently and effectively.
• Estimates to end the biennium with a nearly $200 million balance
• Maintains the largest rainy day fund in state history ($291.8 million)
• Continues to work to reduce fraud and abuse in government programs
• Protects the state’s fully funded pension system
• Ensures accountability of taxpayer resources to the UW System through performance funding
• Adds oversight and accountability measures to the Department of Transportation
• Reduces the size of government by eliminating 432 FTE in each year compared to governor’s budget
• Spends $500 million less than governor’s recommended budget


Guest Column: Grant to the Appleton International Airport


Last week, the Joint Committee on Finance adopted a provision in the state budget 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. This provision was approved along with the rest of the budget by the state Assembly on Wednesday.

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).


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