With the recent conclusion of the two-year legislative session, we are provided a good opportunity to look back on the top legislative accomplishments of 2013-14. Here is my list of the top ten bills or actions taken by the State Legislature this session.
Tax Relief – The State Legislature passed three significant tax relief measures this session, totaling over $500 million in property tax relief and nearly $750 million in income tax cuts. Overall reductions to the tax burden since 2011 amount to over $1.9 billion in taxpayer savings.
Encouraging Job Creation – With our continued focus on encouraging job growth and improving our business climate, legislation was enacted to address the skills gap through workforce development initiatives, improving access to investment capital, and reducing unnecessary red tape.
Budget Surplus – Through economic growth, financially responsible budgeting, and working to live within the means of taxpayers, our state benefitted from an over $1 billion budget surplus. This growth in state revenues allowed the Legislature to invest in our priorities and enact tax relief.
Addressing Heroin Addiction – I was pleased to be the Senate author of the H.O.P.E. package that begins to address the heroin epidemic affecting our state. Two other bills that I co-sponsored will expand addiction treatment options in underserved areas and increase funding for local treatment and diversion programs.
Rainy Day Fund – Deposits have been made to the state’s rainy day fund for three consecutive years for the first time ever and the fund now has a balance of $280 million.
Enhanced DNA Collection – Recognizing the value that advances in DNA technology have on saving lives, apprehending career criminals, and saving taxpayer dollars, enhanced DNA collection was approved by the State Legislature and signed into law. I have championed this effort to collect DNA profiles from those arrested on felony charges to stop career criminals and provide relief to victims and their families.
Investing in Students – Prudent investments in education were made to support students and their families, as well as in funding private-public partnerships through technical colleges to address local workforce needs.
Improving Mental Health Services – Representative Erik Severson chaired a bipartisan task force that developed over a dozen bills that were enacted to reform and modernize our state’s mental health laws and to improve treatment and accessibility of services.
Tuition Freeze – University of Wisconsin tuition was frozen to help students and their families.
Reducing Barriers to Work – A number of bills were advanced to help individuals gain professional credentials and begin employment. Students attending a technical college or university may begin taking licensing exams before graduation as a means to enter the workforce more quickly. Legislation I introduced to further this effort involved eliminating unreasonable barriers for nurses trained in other states to be licensed in Wisconsin. This proposal was developed given input I received from an area nurse.
What do you believe is the top legislative accomplishment of the past session? You can let me know by visiting my website at www.harsdorfsenate.com or calling my office at 1-800-862-1092 or 608-266-7745.