September 1, 2017

The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) met Monday to consider the Governor’s K-12 funding proposal in the state budget. After years of deep cuts to local schools, Democrats offered a motion that would have restored education funding, increased voucher accountability and lowered property taxes across the state. The Democratic proposal also included more targeted aid for small and rural school districts as well as special education funding.

Republicans rejected the Democratic proposal and instead voted to cut additional funding from the Governor’s proposal. The plan supported by majority party Republicans expands the statewide private school voucher program, cuts $18 million in rural school aid and creates new limits on local school referenda.

Since Republicans have still not finalized the budget, many school districts are struggling to finalize their budgets for the academic year, hire teachers and purchase supplies even as classes have started in many communities. The budget stalemate is also preventing the state from making local school aid payments and moving forward on several road construction projects.

According to officials, Gov. Walker’s budget delay is officially the longest on record in Wisconsin under single-party control. Republican leaders continue to meet behind closed doors to discuss the state budget stalemate and the Governor’s proposed $3 billion tax break package for Foxconn.

Follow Along!

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

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Budget Update

The Joint Finance Committee met on Monday 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 Public Instruction and the Building Program.

JFC Democrats joined Republicans in approving a $1 billion capital budget, which expands Gov. Walker’s proposal by more than $200 million. The approved projects include all of the recommendations made by the Building Commission, which can be viewed here.

In addition to the Building Commission recommendations, the $200 million in new bonding will support:

  • $55 million for a new Sesquicentennial Hall at UW-Platteville, which will allow the engineering program to expand.

  • $35.9 million to renovate Wyllie Hall at UW-Parkside.

  • $32.7 million for utility repairs on UW-Madison’s Lathrop Drive/Bascom Hill.

  • $23.7 million for a parking lot replacement at UW-Madison.

  • $23.7 million for a renovation and addition at UW-Platteville’s Boebel Hall.

  • $19.3 million for an addition and renovation at UW-Eau Claire’s Governor’s Hall.

  • $4.9 million for an addition and renovation at UW-River Falls’ May Hall.

  • $7 million for a Geriatric Prison Facility, with a location to be determined. JFC will have to approve final plans for the facility.

  • $5.7 million for a boiler replacement at Mendota Mental Health Institute.

  • $1 million for renovations of the Capitol basement.

 A provision was also included that will direct $600,000 for a Department of Administration study on Corrections facilities. The study will be led by a nine-person committee made up of three people appointed by the Governor and six legislators appointed by the Assembly Speaker and Senate Majority Leader. Democrats questioned if members of the minority would have a voice on the committee but Republicans did not expand the membership to include any Democrats.

K-12 Education (DPI)

Republicans passed a motion to provide $639 million in funding for public schools – about $10 million less than what Gov. Walker had proposed. This motion does not make our public schools whole from the $1 billion in state aid that they have lost under the Republican majority and it continues to expand the voucher program by about $30 million. 

Here is a link to the full Republican omnibus motion, which contains 58 total items. Highlights of the motion are described below:

Voucher Expansion

The Republican motion raises the income threshold for participation in the state-wide voucher program from 185% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) to 220% FPL. This will raise the income limit for a family of four from $44,955 to $53,460 (plus another $7,000 if the parents are married). Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates that this will allow an additional 550 students to participate in the voucher program.

The Republican motion also eliminates the income verification requirement for students transferring from one voucher program to another. Under current law, family income is only verified when a student initially enters a voucher program and is never re-verified after that – except when the student transfers between programs.

Attacks on Rural Schools

The Republican motion deletes the $18 million sparsity aid increase that Gov. Walker had proposed, which would have raised sparsity aid from $300 to $400 per pupil. Sparsity aid is funding that is specifically targeted to small, rural school districts based on enrollment and population density.

The Republican motion also incentivizes school district consolidation by providing new funding for districts that use shared services or whole grade sharing and by creating a new consolidation aid formula. While merging small school districts can sometimes generate savings, it also leads to higher transportation costs and travel distances for students, especially in rural areas.

Taxpayer Money for Private Schools

Under the Republican motion, this budget will be the first state budget that will give taxpayer dollars directly to non-voucher private schools. The Republican motion allows private schools to receive grants for laptops and for teacher development.

Opportunity Schools Partnership Program (OSPP)

The Republican motion creates special provisions regarding the implementation of the Opportunity Schools Partnership Program (OSPP) in the Racine Unified School District (RUSD). RUSD will have one additional year to meet expectations IF the school board votes to abolish their teacher’s handbook, effectively eliminating the remaining power of the union and their advocates on the school board.

Additionally, the motion allows villages whose students attend RUSD to secede from RUSD and establish a new district if the village board adopts a resolution and a referendum is passed. This will significantly reduce revenue for RUSD and create smaller, wealthier districts in the 62nd and 63rd Assembly Districts and the 21st Senate District.

Miscellaneous Provisions

The Republican omnibus motion also:

  • Builds upon the last budget’s creation of a “charter czar” by expanding the entities that may authorize new independent charter schools state-wide.

  • Restores school district authority to raise revenue limits for energy efficiency measures, following a one-year moratorium.

  • Raises revenue limit adjustment authority for low-spending school districts.

  • Places new limits on the scheduling of school district referenda, eroding local control.

  • Eliminates the requirement that school district employees pay 12% of their healthcare costs.

  • Allows independent charter schools to receive funding for summer school programs.

  • Creates a life-time teaching license, following a provisional three-year license.

Democratic Plan

The Democratic motion represents a nearly $730 million investment in public education beyond Gov. Walker’s original K-12 budget.  The motion would have:

  • Put an additional $514 million into the general aid formula, while implementing State Superintendent Tony Evers’ Fair Funding plan.

  • Retained the Governor’s $200/$204 per pupil aid increases for all districts.

  • Restored funding lost under restrictions that Republicans placed on low-spending districts in 2011, and increased funding for historically low-spending districts beyond the Republican plan.

  • Increased special education funding for the first time in nearly a decade by close to $90 million.

  • Supported rural schools with sparsity aid that funds the actual cost to districts (about $26 million over the biennium).

  • Restored $500 million in local revenue authority so districts can use the increased state funding for actual classroom instruction.

  • Allowed local taxpayers to decide via referendum if they want their tax dollars shifted to unaccountable voucher schools.

  • Expanded mental health reimbursements to all student services personnel, not just social workers.

  • Reduced property taxes statewide by increasing state support for schools. Compared to the Governor’s plan, the Democratic plan would cut property taxes by an additional $25 million. JFC Democrats June release on plan. Fact Sheet.

Republicans passed their motion on a party-line vote and rejected the Democratic motion to invest more in our public schools.

Below is an interactive map that shows how a Legislative Democratic plan increases funding for every school district in Wisconsin:


You can view all of the previous motions and votes on the state budget by visiting the Legislative Democrats website here:  http://legis.wisconsin.gov/democrats/jfc-votes 


The next scheduled executive session is Tuesday, September 5th for the committee to act on the following agencies:

What Democrats Are Saying
Democratic Proposals

LRB3641 Study on Alternatives to Solitary Confinement of Inmates (Sen. Risser, Rep. Crowley) would require DOC to prepare a report for the legislature on the alternatives to the solitary confinement of inmates with the goal of eliminating the practice.

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 Labor and Regulatory Reform
The committee held a Public Hearing to discuss three Senate Bills:

  • Senate Bill 295 would require the expiration of each chapter of the Wisconsin Administrative Code after seven years, unless the chapter is readopted by the agency.

  • Senate Bill 220 would eliminate the Department of Tourism administrative rules for a heritage tourism pilot program.

  • Senate Bill 322 / Assembly Bill 317 would outline an expedited procedure an agency can use to repeal a rule that the agency determines it no longer has the authority to enforce.

Senate Revenue, Financial Institutions and Rural Issues

The committee held an Executive Session to vote on two Senate Bills:

  • Senate Bill 238 would allow Dept. of Health Services to pay for first responder training and examinations for ambulance service providers. Passed, 5-0.

  • Senate Bill 239 would allow an ambulance service provider to upgrade its advertised service level to the highest level (of license) of any emergency medical technician staffing the ambulance. Passed, 5-0.

The committee also held a Public Hearing to discuss the appointment of Timothy Seehy to be an Investment Experience Representative on the Wisconsin Investment Board as well as three Senate Bills:

  • Senate Bill 306 would create a sales and use tax exemption for tangible personal property and taxable services sold to a state veterans organization.

  • Senate Bill 291 would require real property to be assessed at its highest and best use. Also provides that an assessor shall determine the value of leased property by considering the lease provisions and actual rent pertaining to property.

  • Senate Bill 292 outlines factors an assessor must consider while determining the value of property for property tax purposes. 

Senate Judiciary and Public Safety
The committee held a Public Hearing to discuss Patrick Fiedler to serve on the Public Defender Board as well as three Senate Bills and one Assembly Bill:

  • Senate Bill 230 would change procedures relating to burial or cremation and burial of a deceased prison inmate. 

  • Senate Bill 310 would change judicial considerations of a vehicle operation violation and revocation. 

  • Senate Bill 339 would expand the individuals who may utilize the Huber release program. 

  • Assembly Bill 345 would permit inmates confined in county jails, county houses of correction, or tribal jail to leave the facility to participate in employment-related activities. 

The committee also held an Executive Session to discuss four 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. Passed, 5-0.

  • 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. Passed, 5-0.

  • 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. Passed, 5-0.

  • 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. Passed, 5-0.

Senate Government Operations, Technology and Consumer Protection
The committee held a Public Hearing on three Senate Bills:

  • Senate Bill 324 would change proceed distribution amount from special registration plates associated with professional baseball park districts.

  • Senate Bill 337 would require every state agency, including the legislature and the courts, submit a base budget review report once every third biennium.

  • Senate Bill 366 would allow a retailer to sell alcohol beverages off the retailer's licensed premises if the sale occurs at the Ozaukee County fairgrounds.

Senate Committee on Education

The committee will hold an Executive Session to vote on three Assembly Bills and two Senate Bills:

  •  Assembly Bill 71 would require the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to create, maintain, and post a pupil data inventory on the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) website. Passed, 7-0.

  • Assembly Bill 72 would require the Superintendent to provide guidance and training to school districts and schools in implementing and administering a data privacy. Passed, 7-0.

  • Assembly Bill 280 would direct each school board to adopt academic standards for financial literacy and incorporate instruction in financial literacy into the curriculum. Passed, 7-0.

  • Senate Bill 299 would expand the teacher education programs that satisfy a requirement for obtaining an initial teaching license under the alternative teacher licensure program.  Passed, 7-0.

  • Senate Bill 301 would expand the types of online classes offered to high school pupils as summer classes that qualify for state aid. Passed, 7-0.

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 Transportation
The committee held a public hearing on Assembly Bill 442, which would make changes to the requirements for sign placement on ATV routes, Assembly Bill 99, which would create a minimum confinement period for fifth and sixth offenses for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, Assembly Bill 381, which would require special groups to make an additional $10 annual voluntary fee in addition to other registration fees and Assembly Bill 342, which would increase the penalty of operating a motor vehicle without the consent of the owner.

Assembly Committee on Natural Resources and Sporting Heritage
The committee held an Executive Session on Assembly Bill 455, which would eliminate the requirement that a person be at least ten years old to hunt under the hunting mentorship program. The committee also held a public hearing on Assembly Bill 461, which would require that the Department of Natural Resources treat a terminally ill individual participating in a hunting related event sponsored by a charitable organization as a resident for purposes of determining eligibility and Assembly Bill 441, which would require the DNR to issue five certificates for sturgeon spearing licenses.

Assembly Committee on State Affairs 
The committee held a public hearing on Assembly Bill 426, which would require every state agency to submit a base budget review once every third biennium and Assembly Bill 450, which would allow a retailer to sell alcohol beverages off of the retailer’s licensed location.

Next Week in the Legislature

Senate Committees

Senate Judiciary and Public Safety
The committee will hold a Public Hearing to discuss Senate Bill 72, Senate Bill 73, Assembly Bill 98, Senate Bill 128, Senate Bill 135 and Assembly Bill 335.

Senate Labor and Regulatory Reform
The committee will hold a Public Hearing on Assembly Bill 60, Senate Bill 241 and Senate Bill 235. The committee will also hold an Executive Session on Senate Bill 61, Senate Bill 220, Assembly Bill 317, and Senate Bill 322.

Assembly Committees

Assembly Committee on Aging and Long-Term Care
The committee with hold a public hearing on Assembly Bill 432, Assembly Bill 444 and Assembly Bill 473.

Assembly Committee on Education
The committee will hold a public hearing on Assembly Bill 159, Assembly Bill 221 and Assembly Bill 215.

Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety
The committee will hold a public hearing on Assembly Bill 389, Assembly Bill 400, Assembly Bill 435 and Assembly Bill 486.

 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.