Things have been happening quickly at the Capitol over the past few days as my colleagues and I make decisions to improve upon Governor Scott Walker's state budget proposals. I want to share with you some good news on a few of the topics that you have brought to my attention over the past several months.
K-12 education funding. I participated in a press conference last week alongside Assembly leaders and promised to fully restore Governor Walker's proposed $127 million cut to per-pupil aid for the 2015-16 school year. Senate leaders and Governor Walker have already indicated their support as well. Assembly Republicans' priorities have not changed: our top priority is investment in K-12 education.
Also, the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) voted this week to fund a New Teacher Loan Program and a Minority Teacher Loan Program aimed at recruiting quality teachers to serve in urban areas. JFC Democrats did not vote to support these motions.
Long-term care. Just yesterday, Republican leaders rejected the budget's proposed changes to FamilyCare and IRIS. Instead, we have proposed giving the Department of Health Services limited authority to negotiate limited reforms that would require better public and stakeholder input, protect self-directed care and preserve ADRC services, among other conditions. Although some real challenges lie ahead, Wisconsin's is a national leader in delivering high-quality long-term care programs. I am committed to putting in the effort it will take to engage in a thoughtful planning process and include all stakeholders in discussions to find ways to deliver the same level of high-quality care at a more affordable cost.
Mergers of state agencies. The state budget proposal suggested (1) combining the Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) with the Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) and (2) combining the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. I am a strong supporter of consolidating government agencies when taxpayer money can be saved, but DFI is entirely funded by fees paid by the financial industry and has a national reputation for its professionalism and efficiency. In the past few weeks, I testified before Assembly and Senate committees and lobbied my legislative colleagues in opposition to the DFI/DSPS merger because the risks of such a move outweighed any potential benefits. I'm pleased to report that, due to the concerns expressed by many finance professionals, Governor Walker dropped both proposals.
County conservation staff. The JFC voted this week to provide funding for county soil and water department staffing grants. These employees implement programs that provide water testing and monitoring services and work with farmers and landowners to develop prudent soil management practices.
Educational Communications Board (ECB). The JFC voted to restore $1.6 million annually to support the operation and administration of the ECB. This includes funding for the Wisconsin Media Lab and the statewide system that is used to deploy Amber Alerts. JFC Democrats did not support this action and ultimately voted against public radio.
I'll keep you posted as more developments emerge over the next several weeks! I also encourage you to follow my updates on social media. Best wishes on your weekend!
Thanks for Visiting!
These students and chaperones from St. John Lutheran School in Random Lake made the long trip to Madison this past Monday to tour the Capitol. Keep up your hard work in these last few weeks of the school year!
Free Fishing Weekend: June 6-7, 2015
Fish anywhere in Wisconsin without a license or trout stamp on Free Fishing Weekend. This includes all inland waters as well as Wisconsin's sides of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River. All other fishing rules apply, including limits on the number and size of fish you can keep and any seasons during which you must release certain fish species. Don't have any fishing tackle? No problem: you can borrow fishing equipment at many DNR offices, state parks and facilities.
Many locations also host instructional clinics on Free Fishing Weekend. Click hereand scroll to the bottom of the page for a current list of scheduled events. Note that one clinic will be held in Sheboygan Falls and another nearby in Belgium!
Board of Review Meetings
Every municipality in Wisconsin holds annual "Board of Review" meetings and "Open Book" periods during May and June to enable property owners to discuss or formally appeal their property assessments. Open Book is the period of time during which property owners can informally discuss assessments with the local assessor; Board of Review hearings are the best venues for property owners to present their concerns about property assessments after the Open Book period has passed.
The Department of Revenue has created a new tool that enables property owners to look up their county and municipality to view the dates/times of these sessions. Questions about the process are best directed to the local municipal clerk or assessor (whose contact information is provided by the search tool). Although some Open Book periods in Sheboygan County have already passed, several Board of Review meetings are quickly approaching!