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I am pleased to report the Joint Finance Committee has been making substantial progress on wrapping up our 2017-2019 budget deliberations.  A summary of our two most recent Executive Sessions is provided within this e-update, along with a summary of recent legislative activity related to Foxconn. 

 

I hope you have a wonderful and safe Labor Day weekend!

Budget Update

August 24

DATCP

The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Protection (DATCP) promotes quality food, healthy plants and animals, sound use of land and water resources, and a fair marketplace. The Department has a budget of about $190 million biennially to meet this goal. The Committee unanimously adopted an omnibus motion that would do the following:

  • Maintain Wisconsin’s Farm-to-School program which helps connect schools to local farmers to procure locally produced food.
  • Delete the June 30, 2016 sunset of the Farmland Preservation Planning Grants program and provide $210,000 annually.
  • Adopt the Governor’s recommendation to revamp the Agricultural Chemicals program licenses and surcharges with a modification to charge a flat fee of $500 per pesticide product. These recommendations were the result of a task force convened to examine agricultural chemicals licenses and surcharges.
  • Increase funding for livestock registration to help DATCP better respond to disease outbreaks on farms. 

DNR -- Reorganization

The Committee approved the Governor’s proposal to reorganize the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The intent of the reorganization is to help the department focus on priority functions that meet the department’s mission by grouping similar functions within divisions to improve management of workload. These changes will not change overall funding or positions.

DNR -- Environmental Quality

The Committee adopted the following provisions related to the DNR - Environmental Quality budget:

  • Increase base funding by $900,000 for county conservation staffing grants to provide a total of nearly $9 million annually in GPR and nonpoint SEG funding.
  • Approve the Governor’s request to provide an additional $825,000 nonpoint SEG annually for soil and water resource management grants (SWRM) primarily association with nutrient management planning and cost-sharing grants. A total of $3.3 million annually will now be available for SWRM grants.
  • Fund the Central Sands Hydrology study as required in 2017 Act 10.
  • Approve nonpoint SEG expenditures of $867,000 annually for Targeted Runoff Management (TRM) grants and nonpoint source contracts.
  • Approve nonpoint source bonding of $7 million for TRM and rural nonpoint source abatement projects and $5 million for urban nonpoint source and municipal flood control programs.
  • Direct DNR to study the introduction of nutrients into streams and watersheds in Door, Kewaunee, and Ozaukee Counties.
  • Provide $500,000 in one-time funds to aquatic invasive education and control grants (base funding is $4 million annually).

DNR -- Forestry Mill Tax

The Committee took a historic vote to not impose the state forestry mill tax beginning with the 2017(18) property tax year. The Committee also took a number of other actions related to the acquisition, development and protection of forestry lands in Wisconsin. They include:

  • Funding the forestry account of the segregated conservation fund with $180 million GPR to support ongoing expenditures funded by the forestry mill tax.
  • Approving new fire prevention expenditures of $1.2 million for the Pattison State Park communications tower in Douglas County and $468,000 for forestry communications equipment, radio tower licensing, and aerial detection of forest fires.
  • Placing $5 million in a forestry emergency reserve account for wildfire, disease, and natural disaster costs.
  • Directing an audit of the forestry account to confirm the account and its expenditures support DNR forestry activities. 

Public Defender

The Committee approved the Governor’s proposal to convert the State Public Defender to a block grant appropriation, creating the opportunity for a more innovative, streamlined approach to agency management. In addition to other changes, the Committee also voted to provide over $3 million in pay progression for State Public Defenders. This pay progression will save money overall by reducing the reliance on private bar attorneys and help ensure Wisconsinites receive their Constitutional right to legal representation.  

DOR -- Lottery Administration

The Governor recommended increasing the lottery advertising budget by $3 million annually. The lottery advertising budget at the Department of Revenue (DOR) has not been increased since before Governor Walker took office and has not kept pace with costs. Lottery sales revenues are used to offset homeowners’ property tax bills (through the Lottery Tax Credit program) and increased sales, which may result from increased advertising, could increase the funds available for property tax relief. The Committee reduced the Governor’s recommended increase to $1 million annually.

DOC -- Statutory Daily Rates for Juvenile Institutions
The Committee approved statutory daily rates for juvenile institutions based on prior decisions made by the Committee impacting the Department of Corrections (DOC) budget and using most recent population estimates conducted by the department. This vote was a housekeeping vote to wrap-up the DOC budget.

 
August 28

Department of Public Instruction

The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) advances the cause of public education and supervises the public schools so that all school-age children have access to high-quality educational programs that meet high standards of excellence. DPI also ensures that Wisconsin citizens have access to comprehensive public library resources and services. DPI has a biennial budget of over $7.2 billion, of which approximately $5.8 billion is state aid to local school districts.

We can’t have a great state without great schools. The budget approved by the Joint Finance Committee supports educational excellence in all schools for all students. The K-12 budget adopted by the Committee does the following:

  • Increases state aid to school districts by more than $600 million.
  • Provides an additional $200/pupil in FY18 and $204/pupil in FY19.
  • Provides matching funds to help schools invest in technology ($9.2 million).
  • Increases the low-revenue ceiling to $9,400 per pupil by the second year of the biennium and $100/pupil each year until it reaches $9,800/pupil.
    • This will direct over $23 million in additional state aid to 109 low-spending school districts in this biennium.
    • Over the next 6 years, this will direct over $90 million to over 200 school districts.
  • Creates a new Performance Funding aid program to help failing school districts improve ($3.7 million).
  • Creates a new program to improve summer school programming in failing schools ($1.4 million).
  • Continues funding for the Robotics League Participation Grant program ($500,000).
  • Creates the Early College Credit program to help high school students take college courses while in high school, cutting down on time-to-degree and college tuition costs.
  • Creates a lifetime license for teachers and administrators that meet certain requirements.
  • Simplifies the licensure system to make it more flexible and responsive.
  • Provides $1 million to connect future teachers with rural school districts facing teacher shortages.
  • Provides more parents and students the opportunity to participate in the statewide choice program by increasing the family income eligibility threshold to 220% of the federal poverty level.
  • Authorizes any University of Wisconsin or Technical College to establish a charter school.
  • Provides funding for Wisconsin Reading Corps which works to improve students’ reading skills through one-on-one tutoring ($1 million).
  • Provides funding for College Possible, a program that helps low-income, at-risk students attend college and graduate.
  • Fully funds Special Education Transitions Incentive Grant which rewards school districts for connecting students with special needs to meaningful employment or postsecondary education ($6.1 million).
    • Also creates a new Special Education Transition Readiness Grant to help school districts build the capacity to connect students to potential jobs and postsecondary education ($1.5 million).
  • Increases the reimbursement rate for the High Cost Special Education Aid Program to 90%, currently 70%, of all costs over $30,000 per pupil ($1.5 million).
  • Creates two new aid programs related to student mental health: 
    • School Mental Health Aid to reimburse schools for costs related to providing mental health services to students ($3 million); and,
    • Community and School Mental Health Collaboration Grants to help schools connect with area health providers to meet students’ needs ($3.25 million).
  • Fully funds the sparsity aid program and creates a new stop-gap mechanism to prevent school districts from losing sparsity aid from one year to the next ($1.6 million).
  • Expands eligibility for high-cost transportation aid so that more districts may receive aid and fully funds the program ($10.4 million). 
  • Creates an incentive-based aid program to encourage school districts to share administrative positions so that more money may be spent in the classroom ($2 million). 
  • Builds on the Whole Grade Sharing Agreement program created in the last budget by providing incentive aid to encourage school districts to enter into an agreement ($750,000).
  • Keeps average statewide property taxes on a median valued home lower than they were in 2010, 2014 and today.
  • Limits the scheduling of referenda to hold school districts accountable to taxpayers. 

Building Commission and Building Program

The Committee improved on the Governor’s proposal and increased the investment in our government and university infrastructure. It costs the state more to delay necessary maintenance, and the committee increased this focus in a fiscally responsible manner. The projects approved today represents a $1 billion investment in our government and university buildings.    

UW System

The Committee approved additional projects for the UW System so that we can invest in our engineering workforce and necessary maintenance.  The Motion adopted by the Committee approved the following UW projects, in addition to the projects Governor Walker proposed:

  • Eau Claire - Governors Hall Addition and Renovation
  • Madison - Parking Lot 62 Ramp Replacement
  • Madison - Lathrop Drive/Bascom Hill Utility Repairs - Phase I
  • Parkside - Wyllie Hall Renovation - Phase I
  • Platteville - Boebel Hall Addition and Renovation (Science Building) - Phase II
  • Platteville - New Sesquicentennial Hall (Engineering Building)
  • River Falls - May Hall Addition and Renovation

Corrections

The Committee also took steps to address our long term Corrections needs. The Committee approved the Building Commission’s proposal for a study of the long-range master plan for Corrections facilities and improved upon it by including legislative representation. This committee will review and make recommendations for long-term needs, including the use of underutilized corrections facilities and a plan for closing outdated correctional facilities. The Committee also provided $7 million for a geriatric prison to provide care for an aging prison population in a safe and cost effective manner.  

State Capitol

The Committee also approved up to $1 million for renovations to the Capitol basement as part of the State Capitol Centennial celebration.    

 Wisconn Valley Update

On August 22, 2017 the Joint Committee on Finance held a public hearing on the Foxconn/Wisconn Valley bill at the Gateway Technical College at the SC Johnson iMET Center in Sturtevant, Wisconsin. 

At the start of the hearing, Committee members asked representatives from Governor Walker’s administration numerous questions about the proposed development. Topics covered included performance requirements and clawbacks for incentives, how Wisconsin would prepare to meet the labor demands for Foxconn’s contractor and employment needs, what benefits might accrue to other parts of the state, and how we could ensure that Wisconsin’s natural resources were adequately protected. The hearing was recorded on Wisconsin Eye and is available by clicking on the following links Part 1 and Part 2.

I asked the DNR Deputy Secretary about potential environmental impacts. I wanted to clarify my understanding of the legislation that has been proposed and ask a few questions about Foxconn's operations. Here is a summary of what I learned from my own analysis and at the public hearing:

First, it is important to note that the Foxconn Bill does not change any air or water quality standards. There isn’t an exemption for air emissions. There isn’t an exemption for water discharges. The Federal Clean Air and Clean Water Acts are still the environmental regulatory framework that every facility in this state must adhere to, including the proposed Foxconn project.

Second, the Wisconsin DNR is the delegated authority for enforcement of environmental laws and standards, and as such, they MUST review permit applications for potential negative environmental impacts for water and air discharges. Regarding the flexibility provided for development in certain isolated state wetlands (not federal wetlands or wetlands connected to navigable waters), similar exemptions are already provided under current law in Milwaukee and for agricultural lands. Also, the bill requires that any wetlands that need to be replaced due to the Foxconn development shall be replaced at a ratio of two acres for every one acre affected, which is more stringent than current law. 

I also learned that Foxconn intends for their Wisconsin campus to be ISO 14001 certified. ISO or the International Standards Organization consists of standards institutes in 164 countries that work together to create industry standards. The ISO 14000 family of standards provides practical tools for companies looking to manage their environmental responsibilities, and ISO 14001:2015 focuses on the environmental systems to achieve this. These standards help organizations: 1) minimize how their operations and processes negatively affect the environment; 2) comply with applicable laws, regulations, and other environmentally oriented requirements; and 3) ensure continuous improvements of both. Foxconn facilities in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Australia, Slovakia, and Turkey are all ISO 14001 certified. The FoxConn facility in Jaurez, Mexico is both ISO 14001 certified and a recipient of “Green Company” recognition. 

Finally, I looked into what Apple, a major customer for Foxconn, might require of their suppliers. The Apple Supplier Code of Conduct clearly states:  “Apple is committed to the highest standards of social and environmental responsibility and ethical conduct. Apple’s suppliers are required to provide safe working conditions, treat workers with dignity and respect, act fairly and ethically, and use environmentally responsible practices wherever they make products or perform services for Apple." On the environment, the code specifically states: “Apple is committed to protecting the environment, and environmental responsibility is at the core of how we operate. Supplier shall develop, implement, and maintain environmentally responsible business practices.” The code continues: “Apple will assess its suppliers’ compliance with this Code, and any violations of this Code may jeopardize the supplier’s business relationship with Apple, up to and including termination.”  For additional information, please click here -  and here.

 ICYMI: In Case You Missed It

Transportation News: Click here for Janesville Gazette Article

Agriculture News: Click here for Eau Claire Country Today Article

Gun Safety Bill: Click here for Beloit Daily News Article

Budget News: Click here for WUMW 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
Rep.Loudenbeck@legis.wi.gov| |