State Budget Update


April 15th, 2015

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P.O. Box 8953
Madison, WI 53708

PH: (608) 266-0631
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La Crosse, WI 54601
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Joint Review Committee on Criminal Penalties





One of the things everyone has been asking me lately is what we can do about the budget. Sometimes people support one measure in it but donít like another. I explain that this sifting and winnowing is the role of the Joint Finance Committee and under their leadership, the Legislature will soon take up their own version of the Governorís proposed budget.

As almost everyone knows, the first part of the budget process is that the Governor introduces his own budget proposal. But a lot of people donít know what happens next. After the proposal has been introduced, it goes to the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) who is tasked with going through the massive document line by line to decide what options stay, what are changed and what are deleted. Essentially, they have the chance to create a new proposal but most of the time they will only make minor changes to a Governorís draft.

During all day meetings over a period of weeks, the JFC members debate each and every issue in what is called an executive session. Today was the first day of the executive session, and here are some of the decisions that came out of this meeting:




  • The Governorís budget included a plan to convert the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Board from a policymaking authority into an advisory board.

  • The JFC listened to the concerns of hundreds of Wisconsinites who were worried about how this change would affect Wisconsinís history of conservation and public input and decided to remove this proposal.


Local Government



  • Currently, local municipalities are responsible for property tax assessment and the Governorís budget proposal would have transferred that authority to the counties.

  • We heard from both the counties and the municipalities who opposed the change and are satisfied with the way things are done now. As a result, the JFC voted to the current system of property tax assessment the way it is.



  • The Governorís budget bill proposed a new way of funding our courts that would have left vital services such as court reporters struggling to continue to function.

  • Legal groups from around the state weighed in to express their concern about this change. In response to this, the JFC voted to continue using the current method of funding court reporters.

  • Additionally, the Governorís budget wanted to change the independent Judicial Commission, which is tasked with examining judicial misconduct.

  • The JFC, citing the need for an independent eye to watch over the courts, voted not to change the Judicial Commission.



  • As an effort to raise more money for the state, the Governorís budget proposed raising the fine for not wearing a seatbelt from $10 to $56.50.

  • The JFC rejected this idea.

Non-Fiscal Items (Policy Items)


  • The Governorís budget proposal would have exempted research conducted at the UW System from the open records law.

  • The JFC voted to remove this exemption to promote transparency and openness.

Some of these issues were hot-button topics in my district while others flew under the radar. Some of these proposals, like the change to property tax assessment, will mostly likely be introduced as a separate piece of legislation in the coming months, but we will have to wait and see.

The JFC is set to meet again on Friday and they will be debating the Wisconsin Technical College System, Aging and Long-Term Care, Medical Assistance, and the Department of Veterans Affairs among others.

As they meet twice a week for the next several weeks, I will be giving updates on what is in and what is out. It is an exciting time to watch as this budget begins to take shape.




State Representative

94th Assembly District



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