Capitol Updates from State Rep. Dave Considine
July 30, 2015
Now that the state budget has been passed and business in the Capitol is beginning to wind down for the summer, I wanted to pass along the information below - some of the major provisions that were (and weren't) signed into law by the Governor. I also wanted to let you know that my e-updates will now be less frequent until later this fall, when the Legislature is back in session. If you have any questions, comments, or ideas you'd like to share with me, please feel free to stop me on the street, send me an email at Rep.Considine@legis.wisconsin.gov, or call my office at (608) 266-7746.
Rep. Dave Considine
81st Assembly District
TODAY: ADRC Listening Session, 5:30 PM in Baraboo
The ADRC of Eagle Country, serving Sauk County, will be hosting an ADRC Listening Session TONIGHT at 5:30 PM in the West Square Building (505 Broadway in Baraboo), Room B26. I will be attending, and I would love to see you there! For more information, please contact the ADRC of Eagle Country's Baraboo office at (608) 355-3289.
State Budget Wrap-Up: What you need to know
You can read a non-partisan summary of the Governor's vetoes to the state budget here. Please feel free to let me know if you have any questions about any of the items below.
K-12 Education: Funding for our public schools will stay at current levels in 2015-2016 and increase the following school year, but this money will also be used to pay for private voucher schools. Private schools could also get thousands of dollars per student with disabilities (taken directly from that student's public school) but with no additional specialized training, staff, or resources to help those students. Governor Walker vetoed certain parts of the provision to allow homeschoolers to participate in public school athletics, but the details of what this means for schools and students are still being determined.
UW System and Extension: In-state UW tuition will be frozen over the next two years, but the UW System will suffer a $250 million cut. Shared governance has been drastically scaled back to an "advisory" role, and tenure was significantly weakened by being removed from state statutes. Our UW-Extension, which supports essential research and educational programs, will be cutting back on resources and leaving vacant positions unfilled to deal with a $5.2 million cut, the largest cut in state support the organization has ever seen.
Transportation: Governor Walker's $1.3 billion transportation bonding request was cut down to $850 million, but this still shifts our debt onto future generations, and neither the Joint Finance Committee nor Governor Walker were able to come up with a long-term plan for a solid transportation infrastructure. This will result in delays in major projects across the state, including highway reconstructions and resurfacing work.
Open, Honest Government: Thanks to overwhelming citizen input, two concerning provisions were removed from the budget almost immediately when it reached the Senate: the proposal to exempt legislators from being accountable to the public through our state's open records laws, and the plan to remove objective non-legislator members from the Joint Survey Committee on Retirement Systems, which oversees legislative changes to our state's outstanding retirement system. However, I will continue to watch for any other proposals to change or eliminate our state's long-standing tradition of open, accountable government.
Revenue: Municipalities will no longer be able to freely decide how they use revenues from the state's room tax, and Wisconsin's wealthiest citizens will now pay less under a reduced Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). The Governor vetoed a proposal added by Joint Finance that would have barred local wineries from serving beer, which means they will now be able to expand their businesses (and our local economy) by hosting events like weddings and banquets. Unfortunately, a provision to make Wine Walks legal under state statutes did not make it into the budget, but I am continuing to work with my colleagues on separate legislation addressing Wine Walks that will likely be introduced this fall.
Long-Term Care and Other Healthcare Provisions: Family Care will be expanded statewide, even to counties that already have their own (non-Family Care) programs in place. Instead of maintaining the current structure of our ADRCs and IRIS program, Governor Walker's budget created "Integrated Health Agencies" (IHAs) that will supposedly provide all the same services. However these changes were not requested or supported by any stakeholders or members of the long-term care community, and there has been very little information on the details of these IHAs.
Prevailing Wage: Wisconsin's prevailing wage law no longer applies to local projects, meaning there will be no set minimum wage that workers on these projects must be paid. While I agree that our prevailing wage laws could be improved in some ways, I was and still am concerned with the way this change was pushed through as part of the budget, rather than as a standalone bill with plenty of opportunity for public input and discussion.
Environment: Because our taxes will no longer go toward supporting our state parks, you may have noticed a recent state park fee increase. The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship program will not be frozen as Governor Walker requested, but will only be allowed to borrow $9 million per year for land acquisition. The budget also cut more than a dozen research positions in the DNR's Science Bureau, leaving them with only about 13 positions.
Milwaukee Bucks Arena
As you may know, Senate Bill (SB) 209 passed the Assembly on a 52-34 bipartisan vote this week. Since this proposal was originally introduced in the Joint Finance Committee, I have closely watched its development. Throughout this process, I received many phone calls, emails, and visits from constituents on both sides of the issue. I have had some skepticism about the proposal, especially given the recent drastic cuts to public education and many other essential resources in the 2015-2017 state budget. Following a great deal of discussion and consideration of the facts, I believe the new, amended version of SB 209 is an improvement from the original proposed deal.
However, I was elected to represent the people of the 81st District. The majority of the contacts I received were in opposition, and that is why I voted against SB 209. This was certainly not an easy decision, but my first and foremost responsibility as your legislator is to listen to my constituents and thoughtfully serve my district. I am honored to serve you in the Legislature, and I would be happy to hear any additional thoughts or questions you may have on this issue. You can give me a call at (608) 266-7746, send an email to Rep.Considine@legis.wisconsin.gov, or just stop me on the street. If you would like to read the full bill or see the roll call vote, that information and more is available on the Legislature's website.
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