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Friday, May 31, 2019

Budget Update 

The Joint Finance Committee voted this past week on funding changes related to our justice system and funding for the UW System.




The Committee voted to raise the reimbursement rate for private attorneys accepting public defender cases. The rate currently is $40 per hour, which is one of the lowest reimbursement rates in the nation. This rate will increase to $70 per hour. The higher rate would be put into effect for cases assigned after January 1st, 2020.


The Marathon County District Attorney’s Office was projected to lose 2.5 assistant district attorney positions in the upcoming budget cycle because the funding streams previously supporting the positions were expiring. (In part because some of these positions were funded by federal grants.) In the past these positions were funded out of program revenue. The changes that occurred this week will change the funding source to general purpose revenue. This will create greater stability for these staffing levels moving forward because the positions will not be linked to funding reliant on grants. While this is not an addition to preexisting staff levels it does prevent the positions from disappearing in the coming budget and provides greater budgetary stability moving forward. The Wood County District Attorney’s Office will be able to hire a new assistant district attorney beginning after October 1st, 2019 with new funds allocated as general purpose revenue.


I’m excited to see these changes moving forward. For the system to work optimally we need defendants to be able to access adequate legal representation. Likewise, the District Attorney’s Office needs to have adequate staff to handle their caseload. The funding set out in the budget is a step in the right direction. I hope moving forward we can continue to work on finding solutions because ensuring our justice system is functioning properly should be in everyone’s interest.


Funding for the UW System was also addressed this last week with the most substantial outcome relating to the continuation of the resident undergraduate tuition freeze for students. Taking previous budgets into account tuition has been frozen at 2012-13 levels for resident undergraduates. This is a huge benefit for our students. Nationally, tuition prices have been increasing year over year and student loan debt is a growing concern. At this time, the UW System will receive $93 million more in general purpose funding from the state and will continue with the resident undergraduate tuition freeze.


Please note that all of the aforementioned changes will not go into effect until the budget is passed and signed into law.

It's not too late to complete the 2019 Spring Survey. 

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Free Fun Weekend

This weekend (June 1st and 2nd) you will be able to fish without a license, use state trails fee free, and access state parks and forests without being required to pay a fee. This is a great opportunity to get out and enjoy the natural beauty of our state! Click here for more information.   

First Impressions Expansion

I had the privilege of attending an event celebrating the expansion of First Impressions into their new Marshfield location. Access to dental care is critical and I’m glad to see this expansion taking place. Click here to watch my remarks at the event!




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