August 25, 2017

The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) met Tuesday for the first time in two months. The committee held a public hearing on the $3 billion tax credit package for Foxconn, a foreign-based electronics manufacturer. While Gov. Walker's administration has promised this project would create thousands of jobs, significant concerns remain over taxpayer costs, worker wages and environmental impacts. 

On Thursday, the JFC met to vote on the executive budget. Democrats offered a motion that would restore the DNR scientist and educator positions that were cut in the previous Republican budget, and provide the resources needed to protect clean drinking water. The motion failed on a party line vote. The committee still has not addressed Wisconsin's K-12 education or transportation. 

Follow Along!

Follow the Democratic members of the Joint Finance Committee on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube as they finish up the budget:

FB (FB, Tw, YT).png tw (FB, Tw, YT).png YT (FB, Tw, YT).png (1)


Budget Update

The Joint Finance Committee met to take up the budget for the first time in two months on Thurday to vote on provisions in the governor’s proposed budget. You can view summaries of each JFC vote on our website: Wisdems-JFC votes. The committee debated the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, Department of Natural Resources, State Public Defender, and the State Lottery.

Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP)

JFC Democrats and Republicans joined together to reject Governor Walker’s elimination of the Farm to School program. The committee restored both the Farm to School coordinator position and the Farm to School Advisory Council in the budget. Farm to School is an invaluable program that promotes local farmers, healthy eating, and nutritional education by connecting schools with local and regionally produced foods.

The committee also voted to delete the sunset of the farmland preservation planning grant program, modify certain agricultural fees and surcharges, increase funding for the livestock premises registration program, provide additional funding for county and district fairs, allow DATCP to revise testing for fuel standard compliance, and make various other re-estimates and technical changes.

Natural Resources (DNR)

County Conservationists

The committee increased funding for county conservation staffing grants by $900,000 annually. While total funding for county conservation staffing remains short of the $9.3 million requested by advocates, the funding increase will allow counties to better support local conservation efforts, including soil and water pollution monitoring.

Environmental Quality

The Democrats introduced a motion that would have: 1) repealed the shoreland zoning changes in the last budget; 2) promoted clean water by doubling producer-led watershed grants, increasing eligibility for well compensation grants, creating a private well testing grant program, and providing new water program staff; and 3) required Foxconn to submit an environmental management plan to the state and to the public. The motion was voted down on party lines. 

JFC Republicans passed a motion that:

  • Deletes new GPR funding for producer-led watershed grants.
  • Increases funding for PECFA (petroleum environmental cleanup fund) awards.
  • Provides $400,000 in one-time funding for the hydrology study under Senate Bill 76.
  • Exempts certain riprap placements from permitting requirements.
  • Excludes agricultural storm water and irrigation return flows from the definition of a point source for water pollution regulation purposes. This exemption was likely prompted by a recent court case involving the Lac Courte Oreilles tribe and local cranberry growers.

DNR Reorganization
JFC Republicans approved Governor Walker’s proposed reorganization of the DNR. Under the reorganization, the Bureau of Science Services will be eliminated and other functions will be centralized under a more top-down hierarchical structure. Democrats moved to reject the reorganization, citing concerns about the impacts this will have on DNR research, the consolidation of power, and the removal of certain staff from protective service classification. The Democrats also introduced a  motion to restore the DNR scientist and educator positions that were cut in the last budget. The motion was defeated by Republicans on a party-line vote.

Forestry Mill Tax
JFC Republicans voted to eliminate the forestry mill tax, which supports Wisconsin’s forestry sector and multiple state programs including wildfire control. Eliminating the tax will cost the state $181 million to backfill with general funding.

Democrats advocated for retaining the mill tax and questioned whether this was a good use of $181 million, especially given other funding priorities like our public schools and crumbling roads. Democrats also pointed out that eliminating this dedicated revenue stream will leave programs like wildfire prevention vulnerable to future cuts.

State Public Defender
The committee unanimously passed a motion to increase pay progression funding for Assistant State Public Defenders (ASPDs). Under the motion, ASPDs will be eligible for an average 5% salary increase in 2017-18 and another 5% average increase in 2018-19.

Additionally, the Committee voted to:

  • Allow the State Public Defender’s office to request additional position authority.
  • Provide an additional $3.4 million annually for private bar costs.
  • Provide $81,800 annually to support payments for transcripts, discovery, and interpreters.

Lottery Administration

Republicans passed a motion to provide an additional $1 million annually to increase funding for lottery advertising. Democrats voted against the motion and offered an amendment to require that a portion of the new funding be used to fund responsible gaming public service announcements. Unfortunately, Republicans rejected the Democratic amendment on a party-line vote.

Juvenile Statutory Daily Rates (DOC)

The committee approved revising the daily rates that counties pay for juveniles housed at juvenile correctional institutions, based on updated population and cost estimates. The daily rates charged to counties will be $390 in 2017-18 and $397 in 2018-19. Due to the recalculated daily rates, the state will also owe an additional $6.9 million for serious juvenile offenders and an additional $1.7 million for juveniles serving adult sentences.

You can view all of the previous motions and votes on the state budget by visiting the Legislative Democrats website here:  



The next scheduled executive session is Monday, August 28th for the committee to act on the following agencies:

What Democrats Are Saying
Legislative Proposals

LRB3886 First-time Annual Fishing License (Rep. Duchow, Sen. Moulton) would expand the fish and game first-time reduced fee approvals to seniors (65+), as well as children aged 16 and 17. 

LRB4159 Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month (Rep. Duchow) would proclaim September 2017 as Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month. 

This Week in the Senate

Senate Session

The Senate did not conduct a floor period this week. The entire floor session calendar can be found here

Senate Committees

Senate Judiciary and Public Safety
The committee held a Public Hearing to discuss the appointment of Daniel Gabler to chair the Parole Commission. The committee also discussed five Senate Bills:

  • Senate Bill 202 would prohibit an adult from knowingly permitting or failing to take action to prevent the illegal consumption of alcohol beverages by an underage person on their property. 

  • Senate Bill 226 would allow county departments of human services or social services to enter into contracts with each other to perform certain child protective services.

  • Senate Bill 280 would expand the definition of neglect to include any person who is responsible for a child's welfare who negligently fails, for reasons other than poverty, to provide the child with necessary care or contributes to the failure to be guilty of neglect.

  • Senate Bill 300 would create a crime for soliciting a sexually explicit photograph, recording, or other representation from a person who is under the age of 18. If a person who is over the age of 18 solicits such a representation from a person who he or she believes is under the age of 18, he or she is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.

  • Senate Bill 308 would increase the penalty for the crime of patronizing a prostitute from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class I felony if the person has been previously convicted of that crime at least two times.


Senate Public Benefits, Licensing and State-Federal Relations
The committee held a Public Hearing to discuss two Senate Bills and their Assembly companions:

  • Senate Bill 288/ Assembly Bill 369 would create an Occupational License Review Council to review occupational licenses in the state.

  • Senate Bill 296/ Assembly Bill 370 would require the Department of Safety and Professional Services to establish and maintain an electronic self-certification registry that allows individuals to apply to be able to use the title “state certified” in conjunction with their practice.

This Week in the Assembly

Assembly Session

The Assembly was not scheduled for a floor period this week. The scheduled floor periods for the session are available here.

Assembly Committees

Assembly Committee on Agriculture
The committee held a public hearing on Assembly Bill 321, which would designate ginseng as the state herb.

Assembly Speaker's Task Force on Foster Care
The committee held a public hearing at the Marathon County Public Library in Wausau. Testimony was heard from invited speakers and the general public on matters relating to the foster care system.

Assembly Committee on Education
The committee held a public hearing on Assembly Bill 423, which would allow an initial teaching license based on completion of a Montessori education program, Assembly Bill 382, which would require screening school district employees for tuberculosis, and Assembly Bill 471, which would change the timing of state aid payments to charter schools and private schools participating in a choice program.

Assembly Committee on Regulatory Licensing Reform
The committee held a public hearing on Assembly Bill 369, which would change the review and reports concerning occupational licenses, and Assembly Bill 370, which would establish a self-certification registry operated by the Department of Safety and Professional Services. 

Next Week in the Legislature

Senate Committees

Senate Revenue, Financial Institutions and Rural Issues
The committee will hold an Executive Session on Senate Bill 238 and Senate Bill 239. The committee will also hold a Public Hearing on Senate Bill 306, Senate Bill 291, Senate Bill 292, and the appointment of Timothy Sheehy to the State of Wisconsin Investment Board.

Senate Labor and Regulatory Reform
The committee will hold a Public Hearing on Senate Bill 295, Senate Bill 220, Assembly Bill 317 and Senate Bill 322.

Assembly Committees

Assembly Committee on Transportation
The committee will hold a Public Hearing on Assembly Bill 442, Senate Bill 99, Assembly Bill 381, and Assembly Bill 342.

Assembly Committee on Natural Resources and Sporting Heritage
The committee will hold an Executive Session on Assembly Bill 455 and a Public Hearing on Assembly Bill 461 and Assembly Bill 441.

 To view updated committee notices, visit the legislative website and click on Committee Schedule: Wisconsin State Legislature.

 The State Capitol Update is provided by the Senate and Assembly Democratic Caucuses. For additional information, please send an email to WisconsinDemocrats@legis.wi.gov or call toll free: 1.800.385.3385.