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 April 14, 2020


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This afternoon, I voted for a COVID-19 relief bill that addresses several short-term challenges created by the outbreak and, critically, helps the tens of thousands of Wisconsin employees who are suddenly out of work.  Here's the summary written by our nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau staff; if you're a glutton for punishment, you may access the 87 pages of "legalese" in its entirety here.


The bill temporarily eliminates the one-week waiting period for unemployment insurance benefits.  It applies retroactively to March 12.  The bill also provides that unemployment claims during the emergency are charged against the state's trust fund rather than against employers' accounts.


The bill prohibits your health insurer from charging you a co-pay for the costs of COVID-19 testing; prohibits health insurance coverage discrimination based on whether you've been a COVID-19 patient; and expands SeniorCare to include coverage of vaccinations.


The bill allows local governments to postpone your property tax payments; adopts important recent federal tax changes into our state tax code; and allows state agencies to postpone a variety of deadlines and fees that they typically enforce.


The bill delivers the flexibility that school districts need to complete the end of this unusual school year.  It also extends the deadlines for families to open enroll students in public schools of their choosing or apply to participate in the statewide school choice program.


And, good news for those readers who graciously let me know that they hope to keep receiving my newsletters beyond the usual cutoff date of April 15: the bill permits legislators to keep communicating in this way for a while longer.


That said: the bill isn't perfect.  Under current law, our state budget is on autopilot to increase state spending in the fiscal year that begins on July 1.  Yet we know that a whole lot of folks are suffering some hard times right now, and we know that the state isn't going to have the money that we expected would pay for those upcoming automatic spending increases.  There are going to be some hard choices to be made soon, because unlike the federal government, we have to balance our budget; we can't just print more money; and our Constitution doesn't permit us to assume debt to pay for operations.


Although the bill is a bipartisan compromise (the final Assembly floor vote was 97-2) that achieves some much-needed emergency relief, we were not able to agree at this time on any ways to address the hard choices that we can see coming.  This outbreak that has already taken some of our lives has also caused too much economic harm already; in my view, the worst things we could do in the days ahead would be to grow government, increase your tax burden or stifle businesses as they begin to struggle back to health.


The State Senate is expected to take up the bill tomorrow, where I expect it will again receive nearly unanimous support.


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Office of Representative Terry Katsma
State Capitol, Room 306 East
P.O. Box 8952
Madison, WI 53708

(608) 266-0656
Rep.Katsma@legis.wisconsin.gov |