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      Understanding the Budget Process Week by Week

May 30, 2017

 Omnibus Motions

 State Rep. Steve Doyle

State Capitol
PO Box 8952
Madison, WI 53708

(608) 266-0631
(888) 534-0094


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The Executive Sessions, part 4 - Omnibus Motions

Thursday was a little bit different than other JFC Executive Sessions. On a normal day of voting, the committee goes through the budget paper by paper, that is dividing up each agency into a section on each program. For example, the Department of Justice (DOJ) could be divided into separate papers on the Supreme Court, district attorneys, public defenders and the attorney general, and each paper would get its own vote.

Not so on Thursday. The Majority Republicans on the JFC created two omnibus motions – essentially lumping a whole bunch of stuff together into one big paper. One omnibus motion was on the University of Wisconsin System while the other was on the Department of Health Services (DHS).

Now, you might be wondering why the committee chose to do things in this manner. Well, when you have a lot of disagreement on the details, you are going to have to find a way to create a coalition.

Even within the majority party, there are a lot of differing opinions and some members haven’t been shy about threatening to oppose certain programs. In order to get everyone to vote in favor of the omnibus motion, the JFC co-chairs took the most popular proposals and combined them with some of the more controversial ones – so if you wanted to vote for A, you’d also have to support B. Without these combined motions, it is doubtful whether they would have had enough members to pass every provision.

So, to take our earlier example of the DOJ, imagine you have twelve members of your party on the JFC. Three of them really like the plan to fund the Supreme Court but they really don’t like giving money to public defenders. Four of them support public defenders but hate district attorneys. Three more are in favor of all the DOJ measures and the other two won’t vote for a proposal unless it defunds the Supreme Court. Sounds like a mess right?

6-2 Disagreement in Motions.JPGBy combining all four proposals, you get twelve members with different priorities to vote in favor of all of them. You turn unstable disagreements into a coalition that actually gets something done. It is the key to moving away from partisan politics and toward compromise and consensus.

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But while it is always nice to see coalition building, we have yet to see a true coalition that crosses party lines. And that is something I’m going to keep working towards.

But back to the motions from Thursday:

UW System Omnibus Motion – passed on a party line vote, 12 -4

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Tuition Freeze vs. Tuition Cut

  • The Governor proposed to cut tuition at the UW System by 5% for in-state students in the second year of the biennium.
  • The JFC instead voted to continue the tuition freeze that has been in effect since 2013
  • Tuition makes up about 25% of the system’s entire budget, while state tax dollars account for 17%.
  • The Governor also proposed giving the UW System $35 million to make up for the revenue loss as a result of the tuition cut. The JFC leaders announced they would use that money elsewhere.
  • New funding from the state to the system would be tied to performance standards. The Governor originally proposed $42 million but the JFC only approved $31 million.

Tuition Break for National Guard and Reserves

  • The JFC passed a provision to cover the cost of 128 credit hours or eight semesters at a UW campus for Wisconsin National Guard members or U.S. Army reserves members.

Carbone Cancer Center

  • The committee approved roughly half a million per year of the biennium to expand the UW Carbone Cancer Center.

UW Green Bay Engineering School

  • The JFC approved a plan to create a new school of engineering at the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay.

Tommy G. Thompson Center on Public Leadership

  • The Republican members of JFC and the Governor announced a proposal last week to create a Tommy G. Thompson Center on Public Leadership at UW-Madison.
  • The goal of the center will be to improve upon public policy and to connect academic experts with lawmakers.
  • The JFC voted to spend $3 million to create the new center.

Outside Audit

  • The committee voted in favor of having an outside audit of the UW System. This would be in contrast to audits performed by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau.

For more information: click here

DHS Omnibus – passed on a party line vote 12 -4

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Drug Testing for Medicaid

  • On a party line split, JFC members voted in favor of requiring childless adults who receive Medicaid health care to work or get 80 hours of job training each month. They would also be subject to drug testing and screening.
  • This proposal was a slight modification on the original version proposed by the Governor.
  • Wisconsin would need a waiver from the federal government to create the program.


  • The JFC also approved the Governor’s proposal (with some modifications) to create work requirements for parents who receive food stamps through the program FoodShare.
  • This requirement would begin as a pilot program in only select counties.
  • The JFC also voted in favor of requiring FoodShare recipients to comply with any child support orders they may have or else lose their benefits.

Children’s Health

  • The JFC approved additional funding for children on the waiting list for the Children’s Long-Term Support waiver program.
  • They also included $1 million for the child psychiatry consultation program.

Long-Term Care and Personal Care

  • The committee increased the Medicaid reimbursement rate for personal care services by 2% in 2018 and 2% in 2019

Communicable Diseases

  • The JFC voted in favor of appropriating $1 million in grants to local public health departments to stop the spread of communicable diseases.
  • The committee added $25 million to the Family Care program.

For more details: click here

Tuesday Recap

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State Building Lease Review

  • The JFC approved a measure that would require the Department of Administration (DOA) to conduct a cost benefit analysis of owning a building each time they renew a state building lease. The provision also requires the DOA to look at other lease options within a 10-mile radius of the current building.
  • The committee also gave themselves the authority to review the proposed lease if a member of the committee objects to what the DOA decides.

Drug Testing for W-2

  • In his budget, the Governor proposed drug testing for any person who wants to participate in three W-2 work programs. This would apply to roughly 14,000 people.
  • The JFC approved this proposal on a party line vote.

Higher Education Grants

  • The JFC approved the Governor’s proposal to increase state higher education grants by about 3.67 %:
    • $5.6 million more for UW students
    • $2.6 million more for private college students
    • $1.8 million more for technical college students
    • $44,300 more for tribal college students.

W-2 Tied to School Attendance

  • The Governor proposed cutting W-2 benefits for parents whose children repeatedly skip school or cut classes. Current law allows for benefits to be reduced if the children aren’t enrolled in school.
  • The JFC approved the measure on a party line split.

Wisconsin Shares

  • The JFC unanimously approved a plan proposed by the Governor that will allow families to stay in the Wisconsin Shares child care program as their incomes rise.
  • Instead of cutting the benefits off entirely, the subsidy will be phased out as the family’s income rises.

Student Loan Refinancing

  • On a party line split, the JFC rejected a motion to create a state entity to allow students to refinance their loans at lower interest rates.
  • Currently, 800,000 graduates in Wisconsin hold $19 billion in student loan debt.

Success Sequence

  • The JFC unanimously voted to reject the Governor’s plan to spend $1 million on ads promoting the “success sequence” – a theory that people are more likely to succeed in life if they graduate from high school, find full-time employment and wait to have children until they are married and 21 years or older.


Next week the JFC will be in on Wednesday to take up the following topics:

  • Corrections – Parole Commission
  • The Supreme Court
  • District Attorneys
  • Department of Administration
  • Department of Workforce Development
  • Department of Tourism
  • Department of Natural Resources
  • Board of Commissioners of Public Lands

As always, please let me know if you have any comments or questions on anything in this update or in previous ones. If you have suggestions for how I can make these more informative and interesting, feel free to let me know.


Until next time,