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  Understanding the Budget Process Week by Week

August 28, 2017

JFC Resumes Work

 State Rep. Steve Doyle

State Capitol
PO Box 8952
Madison, WI 53708

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


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Back by Popular Demand

The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) met on Thursday for the first time since June 15th and as one member said they are “back in the saddle again.” Here is a breakdown of what happened:

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State Property Tax aka Forestry Mill Tax

  • The Governor proposed eliminating the state property tax (roughly $26 for an average home of $159,400). This tax is currently used to fund forestry programs.
  • On a party-line vote, the JFC voted to eliminate the tax and instead fund the program with revenue from income and sales tax.
  • With the elimination of the Forestry Mill tax, the new source of funding would have to be approved every two years by the legislature.

DNR Reorganization

  • The JFC approved the Governor’s plan to reorganize the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), cutting the total number of divisions and rearranging several current units.
  • One of the new units, the Division of External Services, would be responsible for oversight of large farms, shoreland zoning and pollution runoff as well as providing assistance to businesses.

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Additional Environmental Proposals

  • The JFC voted along party-lines to weaken state oversight of the placement of riprap along state shorelines by removing the permit requirement for certain circumstances.
  • The committee also voted to change the definition of point source pollution to exclude storm water from farming.
  • Additionally they voted to provide $14.6 million to help with flood control in the Arcadia area.


  • The JFC voted to raise the fees for housing juvenile prisoners at Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls. The fees are paid by the counties who send their offenders to the prisons.

You might have noticed that transportation and public education haven’t been mentioned yet. These two topics have been the source of the most debate between the Assembly leaders and Senate leaders. The JFC will be meeting today to take up k-12 funding but transportation remains at an impasse.

Because of the delay in passing a budget, many schools around the state and in our community have been forced to think creatively. Districts are operating on last year’s spending plan – and they don’t know if this year’s plan (as part of the budget) is going to be more or less than that. Some teaching positions remain unfilled because districts are not sure they will receive funding for them. As one superintendent said, “everything is up in the air.” Regardless of what education funding plan is approved by the JFC today it will help our districts better anticipate the next fiscal year.
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Rumor is that the JFC will finish their work on the budget the week of September 4th with the Assembly taking up the bill the week of September 11th and the Senate following a week or so later. But as you’ve seen over the past few months, rumors don’t necessarily turn into reality.

Foster Care Task Force

Recently, I was named co-chair of the Speaker’s Task Force on Foster Care which is tasked with looking at ways to improve our foster care system and prevent families from needing to enter it in the first place. We held our first public hearing last week in Wausau where our guests focused on the effectiveness of community response programs (CRP). These preventative programs work with families who were reported to child protective services but were not found to meet the standard for a full investigation. Even though the families were “screened out” of CPS, they are still considered at-risk so county social workers reach out to them to see what supportive services they can provide to help strengthen the family. CRP programs around the state have been quite successful in preventing children from needing to enter foster care and helping parents provide a safe and supportive home for their children.

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In addition, we also had the opportunity to hear from foster parents themselves. They are the ones who really know about the challenges facing the system and they provided unique insight on the needs of foster parents, foster children and biological parents. Even though it was a long day, I was grateful to so many who stayed to share their perspective and help our task force focus on what we can do to make the foster care system better for everyone.

We are planning to hold more public hearings around the state in the coming month and will be in La Crosse on Wednesday, September 28th. As soon as I have the details, I will share them with you and anyone who is interested in attending and/or testifying is welcome. Even if you are not able to attend or would just like to send your thoughts to the task force, just send me an email at rep.doyle@legis.wisconsin.gov.

Until next time,


State Representative
94th Assembly District