Budget Update

As a member of the Joint Finance Committee (JFC), budget season is an extremely busy time for me and my staff. We are taking advantage of a little break in the action to provide a summary of the Committee’s Executive Session action.  Today’s update includes summaries from May 18, 23, 25 and 31st. We will continue to send updates on actions as the budget progresses.

I want to extend a very special THANK YOU to everyone that has contacted my office regarding the budget! I am aware of all of your calls, emails, survey notes, and letters. I am not always able to personally reply to every inquiry, but I do receive and consider your input and keep your views in mind throughout the decision-making process.

May 18

Labor and Industry Review Commission
The Labor and Industry Review Commission (LIRC) is an independent, quasi-judicial agency responsible for resolving appeals of disputed unemployment insurance, worker’s compensation, fair employment and public accommodation cases. The Governor recommended repealing LIRC and transferring responsibilities to the Department of Workforce Development. The Committee voted to keep LIRC and requested the Supreme Court conduct a study of LIRC decisions.

Wisconsin Technical College System
The Technical College System (WTCS) consists of 16 technical college districts that cover the entire state. WTCS has a biennial budget of over $1 billion.

Tuition and Fee Freeze
The Governor recommended freezing tuition for resident students at all WTCS institutions. To fund the freeze, the Governor recommending providing WTCS with $5 million annually. The Committee deleted the Governor’s proposed tuition freeze and the funding.

Educational Approval Board
The Educational Approval Board (EAB) regulates the operation of for-profit post-secondary schools in Wisconsin. The Governor recommended transferring the EAB to the Department of Safety and Professional Services. The Committee approved the Governor’s recommendation with slight modifications to ensure a smooth transition. 

Historical Society
The Historical Society (WHS) helps people connect to the past by collecting, preserving, and sharing stories and items of importance to Wisconsin. In addition to private donations, WHS receives over $30 million biennially in state funding. 

State Archive and Preservation Facility
In 2013, the Building Commission authorized over $46 million in general fund borrowing to finance the construction of the State Archive and Preservation Facility. This facility will be used to house artifacts and collections. The Committee modified the Governor’s budget request to fully fund facility lease costs for WHS.

Circus World Museum
The Circus World Museum in Baraboo is owned by the WHS, but managed privately. Circus World revenues have declined significantly and the museum is in need of assistance. The Committee approved the Governor’s recommendation to make Circus World Museum a WHS managed historic site. 

Shared Revenue and Tax Relief -- Direct Aid Payments
Shared revenue and tax relief appropriations provide tax relief through state aid to local government and through tax credits to individuals. The Governor recommended, and the Committee approved, appropriating over $5 billion biennially for shared revenue and tax relief.

As a result of the emissions lawsuit against Volkswagen, the state received $63 million in settlement funds. The Governor recommended appropriating $16 million for state fleet replacement, and $26 million for Milwaukee to replace aging transit system buses. The Committee modified the Governor’s recommendation by providing $10 million for state fleet replacement and $32 million create a statewide transit capital assistance program to provide funding for municipalities to finance the cost of eligible transit vehicles. 

Shared Revenue and Tax Relief -- Property Tax Credits
The Homestead Tax Credit is a refundable tax credit provided to low-income individuals and families to assist with property tax, mortgage, and rent payments. The program was originally created to assist seniors and individuals with disabilities, both of whom typically have fixed incomes. Over time the program has been drastically expanded from this original intent.  The
Committee approved the Governor’s recommendation to limit eligibility to individuals over the age of 62, individuals with a disability, or individuals with earned income


May 23

Administration -- Transfers
The Governor recommended creating an HR Shared Services program within the Division of Personnel Management (DPM) at the Department of Administration (DOA). Under the recommendation, HR staff at all agencies will become employees of DPM but physically remain at each individual agency. The Committee approved the Governor’s recommendation, with some technical modifications and additional reporting requirements.

Higher Educational Aids Board
The Higher Educational Aids Board (HEAB) administers nearly $300 million of financial aid programs, including scholarship, grant and loan programs, the tuition reciprocity program, and other various programs.

The main source of financial aid is the Wisconsin Grant scholarship, which provides financial aid based on need. The committee approved the Governor’s recommendation to increase funding for this scholarship program by $10 million to assist students attending Wisconsin’s UW System schools, private colleges and universities, and WI Technical College System (WTCS).  Due to significant unmet need, the Committee increased funding by an additional $5 million for WTCS students.

Children and Families -- Economic Support and Child Care
The Department of Children and Families (DCF) houses several programs that support our state’s children, offer low income families a helping hand, and increase access to employment opportunities and childcare. Many of these programs are funded by the federal temporary assistance for needy families (TANF) program, which offers grants to states to support needy families achieve self-sufficiency.

Helping Victims of Abuse and Violence
Currently, DCF provides the Wisconsin Trust Account Foundation, Inc. (WisTAF) $500,000 annually under the TANF program to distribute awards to programs that provide civil legal services to low income families related to domestic abuse, sexual abuse, and restraining orders. The Committee voted to provide an additional $500,000 annually from federal TANF funds for civil legal service grants to help increase access to civil legal services to victims of domestic abuse, sexual abuse, and other violent acts.

Wisconsin Works Drug Testing and Treatment
Wisconsin Works (W-2) is a work-based program administered by DCF providing training and support services to assist low-income parents obtain stable employment. To be eligible for a W-2 employment position, an individual must meet certain criteria -- both financial and nonfinancial. The Governor recommended requiring controlled substance screening, testing, and treatment as a condition of eligibility for certain W-2 employment positions. The Committee adopted a modified version of the Governor’s recommendation that reflects the intent of Assembly Bill 242 as amended, which has already been approved on the Assembly Floor.

Offender Re-entry Program
The Committee approved the Governor’s recommendation to allocate $187,500 in 2017-18 and $250,000 in 2018-19 from TANF block grant funds to support a five-year offender re-entry program to aid the successful community transition out of incarceration by noncustodial fathers in Milwaukee.

Child Welfare Safety Services
The Committee approved the Governor’s recommendation to increase TANF funding for child welfare safety services by $889,800 in 2017-18 and $1.9 million in 2018-19. Total TANF funding with this increase is $6.3 million in 2017-18 and $7.3 million in 2018-19. 

Homeless Shelter Employment Services
The Committee voted to allocate $500,000 annually from TANF block grant funds for shelter facilities to help local shelters across the state provide intensive case management services to rehouse homeless families and aid them in becoming self-sustainable.

Mitigating the Wisconsin Shares Benefit Dropoff
Currently, low income families may qualify for subsidies to help pay for quality child care. Eligible families retain their eligibility until their gross income exceeds an exit threshold of 200% of the federal poverty level (FPL) for two consecutive months. For families earning near this exit threshold, a small increase in income may result in a significantly larger loss in child care-related public assistance benefits. This “cliff” is a disincentive for certain low income families pursuing better paying jobs. The Committee accepted a modification to provide funding to support a new exit threshold of 85% of the state median income (SMI). This change will ensure there isn't a disincentive for low income families to accept a promotion at the risk of losing access to quality child care.


May 25

May 25

University of Wisconsin System
The University of Wisconsin System (UWS) consists of 13 four-year institutions, 13 two-year colleges, and the UW-Extension. UWS has a biennial budget of nearly $12.4 billion, $2.2 billion of which is GPR.  The Committee passed an omnibus motion which addressed all of UWS issue areas at once and made a number of modifications and additions to the Governor’s recommendations.

Performance Funding
The Governor recommended providing $42.5 million over the biennium to fund the UWS based on the performance of individual campuses compared to the system as a whole. The Committee modified the Governor’s recommendation to provide $5 million in the first year for grants to institutions to increase enrollments in high demand degree programs. The modification also provides $26.25 million in the second year to be distributed based on the performance of individual campuses. The motion also directs the Board of Regents to develop a set of metrics to measure the performance of individual campuses within a set of broad performance goals determined by the state. These metrics will be reviewed and approved by the Committee prior to the start of FY2018-19.

The Governor provided $35 million to cut tuition by 5% in the second year if the biennium. The Committee modified the Governor’s recommendation to instead freeze tuition over the next two years and reallocate the $35 million for other uses within the budget.

Segregated Fees
The Committee required the Board of Regents to freeze allocable fees (fees set and appropriated by students) until the UWS develops a policy governing the distribution of allocable and non-allocable fees (fees set and appropriated by the Chancellor) as there is great discrepancy among individual campuses in how fees are determined to be allocable or non-allocable.

Thompson Center on Public Leadership
The Committee approved funding of $1.5 million annually for the Tommy G. Thompson Center on Public Leadership on the campus of UW-Madison to facilitate research, teaching, outreach, and policy reforms regarding effective public leadership to improve the practice of American government.

Independent Audit
The Committee directed the UWS to hire an independent auditing firm to conduct an annual financial statement audit of the UWS. This audit will provide a more comprehensive review of UWS resources and improve accountability of the use of state resources.

UW Carbone Cancer Center
The Committee provided $490,000 annually to the UW Carbone Cancer Center to increase access to precision medicine for cancer patients. It will also increase the number of patients statewide that the Center is able to reach.

Health Services -- Medicaid Services

Medicaid plans provide health care for the elderly, blind, and disabled Wisconsinites across the state. The type of Medicaid plan a person may be eligible for depends on your income, assets, and type of care you need. These plans serve individuals who are age 65 or older, blind, or disabled; have a family income at or below the monthly program limit; and are United States citizens or legal immigrants.

Personal Care Rate Increase
The Committee approved the Governor’s recommendation to increase the MA reimbursement rate for personal care services by 2% in each year of the biennium. This increased rate will be paid to personal care agencies to fund all costs associated with providing care, including wages and benefits for workers.

Dementia Care Specialists
To increase access to dementia services in Wisconsin, the Committee voted to increase the number of dementia care specialists from 19 to 24 in 2018. The Dementia Care Specialists, through select Aging and Disability Resource Centers, provide information and assistance about Alzheimer's disease and other dementia related illnesses.

Family Care Funding
Family Care is a long-term care program which helps frail elders and adults with disabilities get the services they need to remain in their homes. The Committee voted to provide $12.5 million GPR annually to the Committee’s appropriation and required DHS to work with the Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) and the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to develop a payment mechanism to remedy direct care services issues, such as worker shortages and flat wages, facing the state.

Disproportionate Share Hospitals
The Committee voted to increase funding for disproportionate share hospitals (DSH) by $30,879,200 (FED and GPR) in 2017-18 and by $31,067,300 (FED and GPR) in 2018-19. These hospitals serve a disproportionately high level of Medicaid patients.

Communicable Disease Funding
The Committee provided $1 million to local public health departments for the control and prevention of communicable diseases throughout Wisconsin. This funding will assist county-based health and human services in researching and combating potentially dangerous outbreaks of infectious diseases.

Health Services -- FoodShare
FoodShare is Wisconsin’s name for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which provides benefits to individuals and families with a household income under 200% of the federal poverty level to purchase food. Federal law requires participants to meet work requirements in order to maintain eligibility.

Wisconsin contracts with vendors to administer the federally required FoodShare Employment and Training (FSET) program. During JFC’s public hearings throughout the state, the Committee heard concerns that FSET programs were unhelpful and inefficient. The LFB papers also identified concerns with vendor contracts and overall costs.

As part of JFC Republicans’ DHS omnibus motion, the Committee reduced the funding to a monthly average of $283, removed the pay-for-performance incentive for FSET vendors, and requested an outcome report to include program improvements and contract modifications. The Committee approved the Governor’s FSET pilot for able-bodied adults with dependents, but required DHS to submit a detailed plan for implementation of the pilot to JFC in order to release funds.

Health Services -- Mental Health, Public Health, and Other Programs
Child Psychiatry Consultation Program
The Committee approved the Governor’s recommendation to provide $1 million for the Child Psychiatry Consultation Program. This program will help improve access to mental health for children living in parts of the state suffering from a shortage in practicing child psychiatrists.

For more information on these provisions, and to see all of the other provisions that were included in the DHS omnibus motion, click here.

May 31

Corrections -- Parole Commission
The Parole Commission is attached to the Department of Corrections (DOC) and is responsible for making prison release decisions for inmates. The Commission consists of eight members including one Chairperson. The Governor recommended deleting the Parole Commission and creating a new Director of Parole position and statutory duties within DOC. The Committee voted to retain current statutory language related to the Parole Commission, but reduced the number of Commissioners from the current eight to four.

Supreme Court
The Wisconsin Court System contains a Supreme Court, four Courts of Appeals, and 69 circuits with 249 branches. With only three exceptions, each county is its own circuit court. Seven Supreme Court justices preside over the Supreme Court, 16 appellate judges preside over the four Courts of Appeals, and 249 judges preside over the Circuit Courts.

The Governor’s budget proposal created a new process through which judicial compensation would be established and approved. The Committee did not approve the Governor’s recommendation. Instead, the Committee voted to maintain current law that judicial compensation is established under the state employee compensation plan, and increase compensation reserves to support a 2% GWA for judges and justices on September 30, 2018 and another 2% GWA on May 26, 2019. This is consistent with other GWA adjustments proposed for state employees. 

District Attorneys
Under current law, assistant district attorneys (ADAs) and deputy district attorneys (DDAs) are compensated pursuant to a merit-based pay progression plan. Similarly, assistant state public defenders (ASPDs) and assistant attorneys general (AAGs) are compensated pursuant to a pay progression plan that mirrors that of ADAs and DDAs. The Committee voted to approve the Governor’s recommendation with technical modifications which increased funding for ADA and DDA pay progression, but kept ASPDs at their current level.

Administration -- Information Technology
The Technology for Educational Achievement (TEACH) program provides funding for telecommunications access for educational agencies, broadband infrastructure grants, and teacher training grants. The Committee voted for a modification to increase funding for TEACH by $6 million in FY2017-18. The Committee also increased funding for library aids by $1.5 million. Finally, the Committee passed a provision to add legislative oversight to the State Transforming Agency Resources (STAR) project. The STAR project is an overhaul of the state’s HR, financial, and procurement IT systems.

Administration -- Housing
The Committee slight modified and approved the Governor’s recommended funding to connect homeless individuals with permanent employment and technical changes to better direct housing aid to individuals with the most need.

Workforce Development -- Employment and Training
The Governor recommended another $11.5 million for Fast Forward grants which fund workforce training programs such as apprenticeships and internship programs. The Committee approved the Governor’s recommendation and made the following changes to the program:

•Modified the Teacher Development Program to broaden the pool of eligible candidates.
•Increased funding for Career and Technical Education grants to school districts by $1 million.
•Provided up to $1 million for grants to school districts for the purchase of technical education equipment.
•Approved the Building Occupational Skills for Success (BOSS) program in Milwaukee  

Workforce Development -- Other Programs
The Committee approved two of the Governor’s recommendations to transfer worker’s compensation positions from the Division of Worker’s Compensation at DWD to the Division of Hearings and Appeals at DOA. These transfers finalize the worker’s compensation transfer that was initiated in the last budget. 

Natural Resources -- Departmentwide
Car-Killed Deer Carcasses
In recent years roughly 20,000 deer carcasses have been removed Wisconsin’s roads and highways annually. The Committee voted to transfer the responsibility for the removal of car-killed deer to DOT, and allowed DOT to contract for removal of car-killed deer with private vendors, counties, or municipalities.

Wisconsin Natural Resources Magazine
The Committee adopted a motion developed that maintains the Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine published by DNR, but reduces the frequency of the magazine and streamlines its administration.

The stewardship program will continue in the same form as current law. Last session the Committee enacted limitations on stewardship acquisitions to encourage a more targeted approach focused on high quality properties, with more legislative oversight. In addition, the Committee approved several specific projects from unobligated bonding authority from previous years.  

Natural Resources -- Forestry, Parks and Recreation
State Park Fees
DNR operates 77 recreational properties open to the public, including 45 state parks, 15 state trails, two national scenic trails, eight southern forests, and seven recreation areas.

•Allow daily admission fees to increase by up to $5 at the Secretary’s discretion.
•Increase range of nightly camping fees in state parks by up to $10 at the Secretary’s discretion.
•Directed DOT and DNR to develop a plan to allow the purchase of a recreational passport when an individual renews his or her annual vehicle registration.
•Increase the statutory cap on the percentage of campsites that may be electrified from 30% to 35% and specify that nightly fees for electric campsites at five high-demand parks may be increased from $10 to $15.
•Provide $2 million of spending authority over the biennium for development and maintenance activities on state park properties.

Forestry Mill Tax
While broad support was expressed for the elimination of the Forestry Mill Tax, as proposed by the Governor, the Committee did not act on the proposal at this time. Rather, the Committee chose to wait on the proposal to act on property taxes as a whole at a later date, and to further examine other ideas to ensure adequate forestry services and protections are provided once the mill tax is eliminated.

The Committee approved several other items addressing Recreational Aids and Wildlife Management.
•Restore funding for ATV safety enhancement grants and also include references to UTVs
•Increase the maximum amount awarded for basic snowmobile trail aids from $250 to $300 per mile and increase the threshold for eligible supplemental trail aids for grooming costs from $150 to $200 per mile per year. Also eliminate the sunset for trail stickers and direct the Governor’s Snowmobile Recreational Council to report to the Committee on options for developing and maintaining unfunded trails.
•Elk Damage Payments expansion to cover additional damage abatement measures.
•Ensure that Wolf Damage payments are fully funded to cover damages to livestock and domestic animals.
•Modifications to Canada Goose hunting registration and reporting requirements so that reporting may occur once annually.
•Eliminate Deer and Wild Turkey tags.

 ICYMI: In Case You Missed It

Water Ski Bill: Click here for Lake Geneva Regional News Article

Heavy Truck Per Mile Fee: Click here for Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Article

My capitol office is here to help you with general inquiries as well as questions and concerns regarding legislative matters. Feel free to contact me or my staff. We are always ready to assist you in your needs. Please visit my website for press releases and other Capitol updates.

 If you have any comments regarding the subject of this E-Update, please feel free to contact me.   

Rep. Amy Loudenbeck 
State Capitol, Room 304 East
PO Box 8952
Madison, WI 53708

Toll-Free (888) 529-0031 or (608) 266-9967| |