It’s Tuesday which means that
the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) was back in their executive session
today. The item that I heard the most about from the constituents of the
94th Assembly District was the cuts to the Educational Communications
Board which operates Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) and Wisconsin Public
Television (WPT). As discussed below, the Governor originally proposed a
much larger cut than what was adopted by the JFC today.
Additionally, I would like to say thank you to everyone who has taken
the time to read these updates and reply with their thoughts and
concerns. I am always available to answer any questions you might have
about the budget process or any particular issues in general.
Without further ado, here is what the JFC voted on today:
The Governor recommended
funding the program, which awards grants to Wisconsin students who
attend college in Wisconsin and maintain a B average from 8th grad
on, at a level of $31. 3 million.
Back in 2011, the
Governor chose to not allow any new students to sign up for the
program but would continue to award grants to current participants.
As a result of this drop
in enrollment, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau recommended that the
program only needed $21.8 million and the JFC agreed with that
The Governor’s budget
would give the UW System control over the agreement that allows
Wisconsin and Minnesota students to attend the other’s universities
with in-state tuition rates.
The JFC co-chairs moved
to take up the issue at a later date, at which point they will
decide if the state or the university will be able to decide how to
use the extra revenue.
Democratic members of the
JFC introduced a motion to allow people to refinance their student
loans at lower interest rates known as the “Higher Ed Lower Debt”
This motion was defeated
on a partisan vote.
Public Radio and Television
The Governor’s budget would cut $5 million form
the Educational Communications Board, which operates WPT and WPR,
Amber alerts and other emergency alerts.
The JFC voted to reduce the cuts to $2.3
million to ensure that the alert signals and popular programming
would be protected.
State Employment Relations
The Governor proposed giving $1.5 million in
grants to counties to be used for mental health crisis services.
This money would come from state-run mental health institutions.
The JFC approved that measure.
The JFC will be back on Thursday to debate the
budget provisions regarding the Department of Children and Families and
Shared Revenue and Tax Relief. By the way, the Assembly will be in
session tomorrow to discuss the 70 mph speed limit, drug-testing for
welfare recipients, requiring food stamps recipients to eat healthy food
and shoreland zoning.