One of the things everyone
has been asking me lately is what we can do about the budget. Sometimes
people support one measure in it but donít like another. I explain that
this sifting and winnowing is the role of the Joint Finance Committee
and under their leadership, the Legislature will soon take up their own
version of the Governorís proposed budget.
As almost everyone knows, the first part of the budget process is that
the Governor introduces his own budget proposal. But a lot of people
donít know what happens next. After the proposal has been introduced, it
goes to the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) who is tasked with going
through the massive document line by line to decide what options stay,
what are changed and what are deleted. Essentially, they have the chance
to create a new proposal but most of the time they will only make minor
changes to a Governorís draft.
During all day meetings over a period of weeks, the JFC members debate
each and every issue in what is called an executive session. Today was
the first day of the executive session, and here are some of the
decisions that came out of this meeting:
The Governorís budget
included a plan to convert the Department of Natural Resources (DNR)
Board from a policymaking authority into an advisory board.
The JFC listened to the
concerns of hundreds of Wisconsinites who were worried about how
this change would affect Wisconsinís history of conservation and
public input and decided to remove this proposal.
municipalities are responsible for property tax assessment and the
Governorís budget proposal would have transferred that authority to
We heard from both the
counties and the municipalities who opposed the change and are
satisfied with the way things are done now. As a result, the JFC
voted to the current system of property tax assessment the way it
The Governorís budget
bill proposed a new way of funding our courts that would have left
vital services such as court reporters struggling to continue to
Legal groups from around
the state weighed in to express their concern about this change. In
response to this, the JFC voted to continue using the current method
of funding court reporters.
Governorís budget wanted to change the independent Judicial
Commission, which is tasked with examining judicial misconduct.
The JFC, citing the need
for an independent eye to watch over the courts, voted not to change
the Judicial Commission.
As an effort to raise
more money for the state, the Governorís budget proposed raising the
fine for not wearing a seatbelt from $10 to $56.50.
The JFC rejected this
Non-Fiscal Items (Policy
Some of these issues were
hot-button topics in my district while others flew under the radar. Some
of these proposals, like the change to property tax assessment, will
mostly likely be introduced as a separate piece of legislation in the
coming months, but we will have to wait and see.
The JFC is set to meet again on Friday and they will be debating the
Wisconsin Technical College System, Aging and Long-Term Care, Medical
Assistance, and the Department of Veterans Affairs among others.
As they meet twice a week for the next several weeks, I will be giving
updates on what is in and what is out. It is an exciting time to watch
as this budget begins to take shape.