The Joint Committee on Finance met again this week on May 12th and May 14th to continue making modifications to the Governor’s budget proposal. There were two significant highlights in the Committee’s work this week.
First, the Committee announced that it would not be approving the Governor’s proposed changes to Wisconsin’s long term care programs, Family Care and IRIS. Instead, the Committee will be directing the Department of Health Services (DHS) to work with stakeholders to consider potential reforms. Once the Department has developed a plan, it will be required to receive approval from the Committee before submitting a waiver application to the federal government to receive approval for any proposed changes. The Committee announced it would also be maintaining the role of local Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs).
The Governor’s proposed changes to long term care have generated significant attention from our aging and disabled residents that receive support through the Family Care and IRIS programs. Family Care and IRIS are focused on keeping individuals in their homes and living independently in their communities. These programs have not only benefitted seniors and those with disabilities remain independent, but also provide cost savings to taxpayers as compared to providing nursing home or institutional care.
Second, a number of changes that I helped author will restore funding for water quality improvement efforts in our state. Several local initiatives have developed in recent years to respond to water quality issues that are affecting recreational users and property owners along our state’s waterways. Additionally, agricultural producers have been establishing farmer-led projects to reduce runoff into our watersheds.
Along with Representative Amy Loudenbeck, Senator Harsdorf worked to restore funding to support the efforts of UW Extension and county conservation staff. These positions are essential to furthering the work of producers and other stakeholders in developing solutions to prevent algae blooms and improve water quality. The Committee also approved the Governor’s proposal to create a grant program to support further farmer-led initiatives around the state.
Other highlights of the Committee’s action this week include:
· Increased funding for services for victims of domestic abuse by $5 million
· Provided additional resources to improve the employability of adults through literacy programs, another motion brought forward by Senator Harsdorf
· Increased funding for adoptive families through post-adoption resource centers
· Partially restored funding for public broadcasting that will ensure continued operation of the emergency notification system and Amber Alerts
· Created a community-based program that allows for temporary host families for children as an alternative to foster care