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 1, May 9, May 11, and May 16th. We will send Part 2 at a later date. 

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 1

Judicial Commission
The Judicial Commission is responsible for investigating and prosecuting allegations of misconduct or disability of Wisconsin judges. The Governor proposed transferring the Judicial Commission to the Supreme Court, but concerns were raised that this transfer may result in conflicts of interest. JFC voted to delete the Governor’s recommendation and maintain current law, retaining the Judicial Commission’s independence as a separate entity.

Judicial Council
The Judicial Council is comprised of 21 members and provides recommendations to the Legislature and Supreme Court regarding the organization, jurisdiction, and operations of the courts. The Governor proposed eliminating the Judicial Council and transferring the Council’s responsibilities to the Supreme Court. JFC expressed support for the value and perspective of the Council and voted to reject the Governor’s recommendation and retain Judicial Council as a an independent agency.

Administration -- Division of Gaming
Indian gaming receipts fund the costs of regulating casinos and gaming vendors, appropriations that fund state programs to assist Tribal members, and are deposited into the general fund for other uses. The state is projected to receive $105.8 million in revenue from tribal gaming in the 2017-19 biennium. Roughly half of this money will go to specific appropriations in governmental agencies. The other half is deposited in the general fund.

Board on Aging and Long Term Care
The Committee voted to increase funding for the Board to support lease costs for the 2017-19 biennium. Additionally, the Committee voted to protect our most vulnerable populations by adding two additional program revenue ombudsman positions. With this proposal, the ombudsman program at the Board will now provide services to Wisconsin seniors over the age of 60 enrolled in IRIS. These ombudsman positions respond to complaints and concerns regarding residents rights, care and treatment, guardianship, and resources and options available to long-term care recipients.

Environmental Improvement Fund
The Committee took up two programs which provide financial assistance to communities to provide safe and clean drinking water.  First, the Committee approved the Governor’s recommendation to increase funding for the Safe Drinking Water Loan Program by $5.8 million. This increased bonding authority will assist municipalities in the repair and replacement of drinking water infrastructure and removal of lead pipes. In total for the 2017-19 biennium, Wisconsin is expected to have approximately $146.4 million in project costs, including federal capitalization grants, loans, and principal forgiveness to assist in removal of lead pipes. Secondly, the Committee amended the Clean Water Fund Loan programming by creating an option for municipalities to finance loans over a 30-year, instead of a 20-year, period. The Committee also accepted the Governor’s proposal to decrease interest rates on projects for municipalities.


May 9

Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC)
WEDC is the state’s lead agency in promoting economic development. To achieve this, WEDC offers a number of tax credits, loans, grants, and technical assistance programs to Wisconsin companies. The Committee approved a total budget of over $75 million to enable WEDC to continue its efforts to grow Wisconsin’s economy.

Appropriation Structure
WEDC is funded with a mix of the economic development surcharge (SEG funds) and General Purpose Revenue (GPR). In recent years, SEG fund revenues have steadily increased. The Governor recommended altering WEDC’s appropriation structure to reduce WEDC’s reliance on GPR while increasing WEDC’s funding by $6.3 million in FY2018-19.  The Committee altered the Governor’s recommendation by reducing the level of GPR funds to WEDC.

Loan Activity
In the 2015-17 budget, the Legislature prohibited WEDC from originating new loans of more than $10 million in 2015-16, $5 million in 2016-17, and prohibits any new loans after June 30, 2017. The Governor recommended repealing the prohibition on new loans, as long as new loans meet certain criteria. JFC adopted a modified version of the Governor’s recommendation, and required that no portion of a loan may be forgiven; and new lending programs must adhere as closely as possible commonly accepted commercial lending practices

Fab Labs
Fab Labs are high-tech workshops equipped with computer-controlled manufacturing components used to provide students with hands-on manufacturing experience. WEDC provides grants to school districts to establish Fab Labs. The Governor recommended continuing funding for the program at $500,000 annually, which the committee approved.  The committee also directed WEDC to provide grant funding to a nonprofit organization to assist school districts with the technical aspect of establishing Fab Labs and developing curriculum.

Military Affairs
The Department of Military Affairs (DMA) provides military and emergency management capability for Wisconsinites. The department is comprised of two major programs: the Wisconsin Army and Air National Guard, and Wisconsin Emergency Management.

WISCOM and Statewide 911 System
The Committee voted to move the Interoperability Council to DMA and create a Director of Emergency Communications position. The motion also created a 911 Council, charged with leading the implementation of Next Generation 911 to improve the ability for Wisconsinites to contact emergency services via text messages and video conferencing. The motion also directed a request for proposal for input on how to improve our statewide public safety radio communications.

Grants to HazMat Teams
HazMat teams work to combat the effects of natural disasters, help manage accidental man-made hazards, and provide security assurance at large-scale public events. JFC appropriated $500,000 in 2017-18 to award grants to local units of government to support the replacement of equipment utilized by local HazMat teams.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) provides legal advice and representation for the state, investigation of crimes that are statewide in nature or importance, and technical assistance and training to law enforcement officers and prosecutors across Wisconsin. The Committee approved an additional $18.3 million in funding for DOJ, bringing its biennial budget to over $274 million.

Treatment and Diversion
The Committee approved a motion to increase Treatment and Diversion (TAD) funding by $500,000 over the biennium to be used for TAD programming or a drug treatment court new counties. This funding, along with funding approved earlier this session in Special Session Assembly Bill 2 and existing base funding, provides an investment of $5.8 million annually to TAD in our state.

DNA Analysis Kits and Crimes Against Children
The Committee voted to increase the expenditure authority of DOJ’s crime laboratories and DNA analysis continuing program revenue (PR) appropriation by $1 million PR annually. This funding will aid the DOJ in supporting the cost of DNA analysis test kits. The number of DNA samples processed by the labs continues to increase, from 15,783 samples in 2015 to 17,366 in 2016. With these continued increases, the DOJ will need this increased expenditure authority to ensure the state crime labs stay up to date on the kits and prevent a backlog from accumulating.

Additionally, the Committee approved the Governor’s recommendation to provide $750,000 PR annually to DOJ’s Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) appropriation. With these dollars, the ICAC will be able to support more investigations and prosecutions relating to internet crimes against children. Data shows that arrests made by the Wisconsin ICAC Task Force have increased in recent years, from 120 total arrests in 2011-12 to 361 arrests in 2015-16.


May 11

Financial Institutions
The Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) works to ensure the safety and soundness of state-chartered financial institutions (e.g. banks and credit unions), protect consumers of financial services, and facilitate economic growth. The Committee approved a biennial budget of $36 million in program revenue for DFI. 

Public Service Commission
The Public Service Commission is an independent regulatory agency that ensures adequate and reasonably priced service of utilities to Wisconsinites. The Joint Finance Committee approved the Governor’s proposed budget while making modifications to several specific areas.

The Committee voted to modify the Governor’s proposed broadband expansion to match legislation that is currently pending in the Senate. The provision will improve access to broadband throughout Wisconsin by providing an additional $14,000,000 SEG for broadband expansion.

Intervenor Compensation
The intervenor financing appropriation provides financial assistance for organizations and individuals who participate in PSC rate cases. These intervenors typically advocate on behalf of ratepayers and ensure that the perspective of all parties - residential, commercial, industrial, and utilities - are represented before the commission. JFC approved the Governor’s recommendation to increase authorization by $742,600 over the biennium.

Stray Voltage
The stray voltage program is operated in conjunction between PSC and DATCP. The program works with farmers to investigate the causes of livestock death and recommend solutions to eliminate stray voltage. JFC voted to reject the Governor’s proposal to eliminate the program entirely. Rather, the committee preserved the program in a streamlined manner by reducing the number of staff to more realistically reflect program workload. Preserving the program will provide a cost effective way minimize disputes between utilities and farmers and keep utility rates low.

Safety and Professional Services -- Departmentwide
The Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) oversees the regulation of credential holders, professional and industry standards, and safe construction of public and private buildings. To help DSPS achieve this mission, the Committee approved a biennial budget of nearly $110 million.

IT Projects
DSPS currently has software application used for commercial building inspection permits that is 20-years old and outdated. DSPS is currently planning an overhaul and update of this software to allow for real-time tracking of inspections, mobile use, and other general updates. The Governor recommended authorizing the use of $4 million to upgrade this software. The Committee modified the Governor’s recommendation to require DSPS to come back to JFC with a plan for the new software and an accurate cost estimate of the project..

Safety and Professional Services -- Regulation of Professions
Apprenticeship Examination Exemption
Certain occupations are required to pass a state exam after completion of an apprenticeship prior to receiving a state license. These occupations include plumbers, electricians, barbers, fire sprinkler contractor, and cosmetologist. The Governor recommended removing the requirement to take and pass an exam after completing an apprenticeship prior to receiving a state license.  The Committee rejected the Governor’s recommendation.

Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP)
The PDMP is a statewide program used to track the movement of legal scheduled prescription medications in our state. Due to 2015 Act 266, prescribers and dispensers are required to check the PDMP prior to writing or filling a prescription for a scheduled drug. In addition, they must log their own prescribing and dispensing activity in the program. Law enforcement is also required to upload information to the PDMP if they encounter an inappropriate use or infraction of the law concerning scheduled drugs. JFC voted to adopt the Governor’s recommendation to provide 5.0 PR positions annually to increase staff support for the operations of the PDMP.

Occupational License Study
The Committee adopted a motion directing DSPS to conduct a review of all occupational licenses and present to the Legislature a recommendation of licenses that may be removed without causing harm to or endangering the public.

Health Services -- Medicaid Services Administration
The Committee considered several Department of Health Services (DHS) budget provisions relating to contracted staff services, data analytics, and information technology initiatives. These provisions allocate and/or authorize funding to help improve efficiency at the Department, keep staffing expenditures in check, and review state funded contracts.

Advanced Analytics System
In the last biennial budget, the Committee allocated $5 million ($500,000 GPR and $4,500,000 FED) to procure and implement an advanced analytics system at DHS to minimize provider and beneficiary fraud. JFC voted to further support this initiative by adopting the Governor's recommendation to allocate $4 million ($675,000 GPR, $3,075,000 FED, and $250,000 PR) for DHS to replace their old, outdated system.

Fraud Prevention and Investigation Allocation to IM Consortia
The Committee approved a motion to increase funding for fraud prevention and investigation allocations to counties by $500,000 annually ($250,000 GPR and $250,000 FED). The added funding increases the annual allocation for this program from $1 million per year to $1.5 million per year.

Veterans Affairs
The Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) has a wide range of functions, from offering grants to help Wisconsin veterans with transportation needs to maintaining quality of care at our state’s veterans homes. DVA helps to ensure veterans have access to the services, health care, and opportunities they need to succeed upon returning home. 

Veterans Trust Fund
The Veterans Trust Fund (VTF) is a segregated fund that supports programs benefiting Wisconsin veterans and their families. While this fund receives revenues from several sources, the balance of the VTF has been significantly depleted. Current law allows DVA to transfer unencumbered Program Revenue (PR) balances from state veterans homes PR to the VTF. To increase legislative oversight, JFC approved an amendment to require the Committee to approve these transfers.

Veterans Grant Programs
The Committee voted to approve the Governor’s recommendation to provide $80,000 SEG annually for making a grant to Disabled American Veterans to purchase eight new vans to help veterans with their transportation needs.

WisconsinEye Cameras
On a 16-0 vote the Committee voted to approve a purchase of cameras for WisconsinEye. This motion, which required a private sector match, will provide 44 new cameras for use in the State Capitol building. This motion will help ensure the public will continue to have open and transparent access to the activities of the state government.


May 16

Elections Commission
The Elections Commission administers and enforces Wisconsin election law. A six member board is appointed to oversee activities related to voter education and outreach, assistance to local election officials, and complaint resolution. The Commission has a biennial budget of $9.5 million.  Funding from the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 is ending, resulting in a shortfall of federal funds available for staff positions in 2017-2019.  The Governor proposed to fund 16 positions currently funded by HAVA. The Committee voted to allocate state funds for 21 positions.

Ethics Commission
The Ethics Commission is charged with ensuring a clean and open government through the administration of Wisconsin’s campaign finance, lobbying and ethics laws, and the dissemination of information to the public. The Commission has a biennial budget of about $1.7 million.  The Governor proposed cutting Commissioner per diems from $454/day (the rate at the former Government Accountability Board (GAB) to $50/day. The Committee voted to set Commissioners’ per diems at $227/day in order to ensure the Commission is able to attract and retain quality Commissioners.

Administration -- General Agency Provisions
The Department of Administration (DOA) provides budget, management, technology, and administrative services to state agencies; supports the Governor by preparing executive budget proposals, provides broad support to other executive agencies, and manages all state office buildings. DOA has a biennial budget of over $1.9 billion.

The Governor recommended increasing the state match and vesting requirement for the state’s Service Award Program. This program assists municipalities in financing length of service awards for volunteer firefighters, first responders, and EMTs. The Committee voted to fully fund the proposed increase in state matching payments to municipalities and modified vesting requirements to protect recipients.

Health Services -- Care and Treatment Services
Youth Crisis Stabilization Facility
Currently, there are a variety of settings in which youth experiencing a mental health crisis may be treated. They could be referred to a general or psychiatric hospital, or an inpatient treatment facility, among other options. A Youth Crisis Stabilization Facility, a less restrictive treatment facility, may be a better option in many cases, and could lead to better outcomes for youth in the future. The motion approved by JFC creates a definition and certification process for youth crisis stabilization facilities. It also provides $1.2 million in funding for the facilities on a one-time basis and requires DHS to include a plan in its 2019-21 budget request to provide ongoing funding for the grants.

Peer-Run Respite Center for Veterans
DHS supports three regional peer-run, residential respite centers to assist adults who are suffering from a mental health or substance abuse crisis. The Governor proposed one-time funding to establish a peer-run respite center in Milwaukee that provides services to veterans who suffer from mental health or addiction issues. The Committee voted to modify the Governor’s to create an ongoing appropriation for the center.   

Children and Families -- Child Support
Supporting Parents Supporting Kids
The Department of Children and Families (DCF) offers support through the Supporting Parents Supporting Kids (SPSK) program to low income noncustodial parents who are unemployed or otherwise unable to meet their child support payment obligations. This program is funded with both state and federal money, but federal funding is set to end in 2018-19.  The program is currently operating in Brown and Kenosha Counties. The Committee approved the Governor’s recommendation to increase funding to make up for possible reduced federal funding and for the program to expand to three additional counties.

Children and Families -- Children and Families
Foster Care and Kinship Care Rates and Cost to Continue Kinship Care
The Committee approved the Governor's recommendation to increase the basic maintenance rates for foster care and kinship care by 2.5% for calendar year 2018 and by another 2.5% for calendar year 2019.

Fighting Sex Trafficking

The Governor proposed increasing funding for services for victims of child sex trafficking by $2 million in the second year of the biennium, and the Committee agreed that this increase in funding was necessary. JFC modified the appropriation to provide DCF flexibility to use the money in both years in the biennium. This important effort increases funding for services for victims of child sex trafficking from $4 million to $6 million over the biennium.

Runaway Services
Many children's advocates have spoken with Committee members about the link between sex trafficking and child runaways. To expand access to services for runaway kids, JFC approved a motion to allocate an additional $100,000 over the biennium for child runaway services.

 ICYMI: In Case You Missed It

Great Lakes Basin Railroad: Click here for Janesville Gazette Article

Bee Bill: Click here for Beloit Daily News 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

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