Lasee's Notes
 April 13, 2017

Lasee's Notes is a way for me to communicate directly with you on key issues of our day
and to champion limited government, lower taxes, and individual liberty.
How we respond to these issues today, will affect the direction of our state and nation tomorrow.

I look forward to hearing from you about the issues of concern to you. Please feel free to contact me, Sen.Lasee@legis.wisconsin.gov or (608) 266-3512. If you are planning to be in Madison, please visit, I look forward to seeing you at the Capitol.

What's Happening at the Capitol?!



 

The most common question Wisconsin legislators hear is, “What’s happening at the Capitol?” Until about mid-Summer, the 2017-2019 State Budget will be our focus – $76,000,000,000 of taxpayer money commands our respect and attention. It can be a confusing process so let’s dive in and gain a better understanding of what’s happening and when; that way you can feel more comfortable weighing in and sharing your thoughts with me.

Wisconsin has what’s called a biennial budget, we create a new state budget every other year. The process for the 2017-2019 State Budget started in July of 2016 with the Governor sending his budget instructions to each of the state agencies. The Governor required each agency to submit their budget requests to him by September 15, 2016.

The Governor then takes their collective requests, constructs a state budget, and sends it to the legislature. This year, Governor Walker presented his 989 page proposed 2017-2019 state budget to the legislature on February 7, 2017.
 

  
 

Now the budget is in the legislature’s court, specifically the Joint Finance Committee (JFC). JFC is arguably one of the most powerful state committees in the nation because they have tremendous control over our state’s finances. JFC is made up of 16 state legislators, eight from the Senate and eight from the Assembly. Of the eight members from each house, six are from the majority party and two are from the minority party. This session, JFC is comprised of 12 Republicans and 4 Democrats.

After receiving the Governor’s budget proposal, JFC takes a month and allows the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) to write the Summary of Governor’s Budget Recommendations. This is a much more manageable document, only 504 pages! It cuts the length of the Governor’s original document in half by converting legalese to plain English.
 


 

At this point, non-attorneys can understand the document, and JFC holds public hearings all over the state. This is where we’re at in the process – please attend and weigh in if you can. So far, JFC held three public hearings last week and will hold three more the week of April 17th. During the first three hearings, people spoke on matters ranging from K-12 education to stray voltage. If you’re passionate about any state programs, now is the time to speak up and be heard.


 

Last week, the JFC co-chairs announced that the committee would be removing 83 items from the Governor’s proposed 2017-2019 budget because the proposals were non-fiscal policy items. It’s the right of JFC to add, change, or remove any items from the Governor’s proposed budget – again, a powerhouse committee.

After the last public hearing, JFC will begin to hold Executive Sessions starting near the end of April and going through May. Members of JFC will vote on modifications, deletions, or additions to the governor’s proposed budget. The committee will go through the budget agency by agency and take hundreds of votes on different proposals (you can watch the process on Wisconsin Eye or come to the Capitol in Madison and watch the committee live).

The Joint Finance Committee always tries to have the committee’s budget proposal done by Memorial Day; however, that’s a self-imposed deadline that’s rarely met. Usually, JFC will finish the budget during the beginning of June and it will go to the entire State Senate and Assembly for a vote.

Only a majority vote is required but the exact same document needs to pass both houses. If any amendment is added in either house, the proposal will need to go back to the other house for approval. I’ve voted on budgets where over 150 amendments have been proposed on the floor. Each amendment is separately discussed and voted on by all legislators. There are no limits on amendments and legislators of either/any party can propose changes.


Here I am debating the 2015-2017 budget

The goal of every budget is to have the document through the legislature and to the governor by the end of June. The governor reviews the legislature’s amended budget that can look very different from the document he presented to the legislature earlier in the year. By our Constitution, the governor has the authority to veto any provisions in the budget. With a simple swipe of the pen, whole sections of the budget can be struck from the document. However, the legislature has the ability to override any of the governor’s vetoes with a two-thirds majority vote in both houses (22 votes in the Senate, 66 votes in the Assembly).

While the budget process is long and arduous, it’s one of the most important pieces of legislation that the legislature passes every session. I expect the 2017-2019 budget to dominate headlines and be the talk of the Capitol even after the document is signed into law by Governor Walker.

Even my summary is long but it’s my goal to keep you well-informed. Remember, “the price of liberty is eternal vigilance”. Stay informed, attend and contribute at a JFC public hearing, and please let me know your thoughts. Our state and nation depend on it.
 



 
 

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Lasee's Notes, please feel free to contact me.

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State Capitol Room 316S- PO Box 7882, Madison, WI 53708
(608) 266-3512
Email: Sen.Lasee@legis.wisconsin.gov