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I am pleased to report the Joint Finance Committee has completed our 2017-2019 budget deliberations.  A summary of our final Executive Session is provided within this e-update. The Assembly is scheduled to vote on the budget later this week, with the Senate voting at a later date in the near future. 

Great Lakes Basin Railroad Update

Last week, the Surface Transportation Board’s (STB) rejected the application by the Great Lakes Basin Transportation, Inc. (GLBT) for authority to construct and operate a 261-mile rail line through portions of Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana.

I am thrilled that the STB has rejected the application by the GLBT. Hundreds of Rock County residents and I have continued to point out in our submissions to the STB, that the GLBT’s application was fundamentally flawed and never adequately addressed any of numerous significant environmental or socio-economic impacts of the proposed project. I applaud the efforts of the communities and community members that invested their own resources in a grassroots effort to fully engage in the process. It clearly made a big difference. 

To read the STB's decision click here.

Budget Update

September 5th and 6th

Transportation

The Department of Transportation (DOT) is responsible for the planning, promotion and protection of transportation systems in the state. DOT’s major responsibilities include state highways, motor vehicle regulation, traffic law enforcement, railroads, harbors and water transport, transit, and aeronautics. DOT has a biennial budget of nearly $6 billion.

The Committee authorized $400 million in transportation bonding, which reduced bonding by approximately $100 million from the Governor’s recommendation. The Committee also added a number of reforms to DOT to help reduce project costs and increase funding for local road aids. 

Highlights include:

  • A new fee on hybrid and electric cars to support $75 million in transportation bonding.
  • Eliminating 200 DOT positions and using related funding to support the transportation fund.
  • Funding to complete Phase 2 of the tolling study. 
  • Additional $10 million annually for the Local Bridge Improvement Assistance Program.
  • Federal Aid “Swap”- Federal aid comes with more stringent and costly regulatory requirements. By “swapping out” state money for federal money on certain projects, Wisconsin will be able to save valuable transportation dollars. 
  • Repeal of prevailing wage for state building and state transportation “projects of public works”, effective September 1, 2018.
  • Reforms the Transportation Projects Commission, which is currently responsible for recommending projects for enumeration, and directs it to study transportation “best practices” in other states, recommend projects for denumeration, and evaluate the allocation of transportation funds among different highway funding programs.

DPI -- Special Needs Scholarship Program

The Special Needs Scholarship Program (SNSP) allows students who have an individualized education plan (IEP) to attend the public or private school of their choice. This program was created in the 2015-17 State Budget and allows parents to select the school that best meets the needs of their child. Under the SNSP, schools that receive special needs scholarship students are provided with $12,000 per student to cover education costs related to the IEP. The Committee amended the program to allow receiving schools (public, private or charter) to obtain more than $12,000 per SNPS student, if the school spends additional resources to educate them. 

Revenue

The Department of Revenue (DOR) advises the Governor and Legislature on tax policy; administers Wisconsin's tax, lottery and unclaimed property programs; distributes property tax relief and local unrestricted aid payments; and oversees general administration of the property tax system. The Committee took up all tax related items in two separate motions:

Shared Revenue, Tax Relief, Local Government and Budget Management

The Committee modified the Governor’s budget with the following actions, among others:

  • Partial Personal Property Tax Repeal - Beginning January 1, 2018, non-manufacturing machinery, tools, and patterns will be excluded from the personal property tax. To hold municipalities harmless, the state will provide $74.4 million to offset the exemption.
  • Provide $48 million over the biennium to keep property taxes below 2014 levels. This funding maintains our commitment to provide property tax relief to homeowners in Wisconsin, while ensuring that municipalities have the resources they need. 
  • Municipal Levy Limit Referenda – Allow municipalities to inform voters of what will  be funded under a proposed referendum
  • Joint Provision of Local Government Services - Explicitly allow counties to share services so that services may be more efficiently delivered to constituents.
  • Lodging Marketplace Sales and Room Tax Collections - Expand the applicability of local room tax to owners of short-term rentals (i.e. Airbnb). This is a compromise proposal that recognizes the reality of “lodging marketplaces” in Wisconsin while leveling the playing field for traditional lodging establishments with regards to regulation and taxation

General Fund Taxes, Revenue, Public Finance Authority

The Committee modified the Governor’s budget with the following actions, among others:

  • Beginning in 2019, repealed the alternative minimum tax.
  • Removed the Governor’s recommended changes to the earned income tax credit.
  • Restored current law for the Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit program and modified the program to implement a $5 million per project cap beginning July 1, 2018.
  • Removed the Governor’s recommended sales tax holiday for school supplies.
  • Required DOR to use statistical sampling when conducting financial audits of small businesses. This will reduce the burdensome process of audits for businesses that cannot afford the cost or time of lengthy and demanding audits.

Wrap-Up

The Committee adopted a wrap up motion that included several technical fixes to previous Committee action. Here are a few highlights from the motion:

  • Moved up the previously approved pay raises for state employees. Employees will now get 2% raises on July 1, 2018 and January 1, 2019. Previously, employees were scheduled to receive 2% pay raises on September 30, 2018 and May 26, 2019.
  • Modified previous Committee action to provide $500,000 for grants to law enforcement agencies to fund crowd-control training and equipment.

Finally, the Committee adopted Motion 2017, which officially concluded the Joint Finance Committee’s Action on the 2017-2019 State Budget. 

 Wisconn Valley Update

On September 5th, the Joint Committee on Finance held an Executive
Session on August 2017 Special Session SB1 and AB1 (Foxconn) and voted to adopt a number of modifications.

Click here to read the memorandum prepared by the non-partisan Legislative Council outlining the amendments to the bill.

The bill will now be sent to both houses of the legislature for final approval.

Here's my speech during the Executive Session.

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 ICYMI: In Case You Missed It

Transportation News: Click here for the Janesville Gazette Article

Foxconn News: Click here for the Beloit Daily News Article

GLBT News: Click here for the Janesville Gazette Article

                      Click here for the Milton Courier Article

                      Click here for the 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

Toll-Free (888) 529-0031 or (608) 266-9967
Rep.Loudenbeck@legis.wi.gov| |