Governor Evers signed the 2023-25 Wisconsin State Budget on July 5th, which enacted the plan crafted by legislative Republicans. However, the governor of Wisconsin has the strongest veto pen in the entire nation.
Governor Evers, unfortunately, used his veto power to veto 95% of the income tax cut provisions, which were included by legislative Republicans. This veto eliminated a tax cut for middle class Wisconsinites. This move was disheartening as his campaign was full of promises of a tax cut for middle class Wisconsinites.
Legislative Republicans included a $3.5 billion income tax cut and a $795 million property tax cut in the budget bill. Governor Evers veto eliminated $2.7 billion in income tax relief for individuals making $27,630 or more annually, and married joint filers making $36,840 or more annually. The tax cut included in the budget passed by legislative Republicans would have provided an average income tax cut $573. The governor’s vetoed tax cut will provided an average income tax cut of $36. The tax cut that would have been provided in the plan passed by the legislature was the largest tax cut in the history of the state.
Another veto that the governor included in the signed version of the budget is increasing per-pupil aid to school districts by $325 each year until 2425. This veto was done by the governor vetoing fiscal years that are frequently written together in the budget bill, and they are usually linked with a hyphen. This veto will provide this increase over the next 400 years. The increases to education funding were negotiated between the legislature and the governor in good faith while we worked on the shared revenue package. This veto goes against those good-faith negotiations.
The legislature increased our investment in the general transportation aid program’s mileage aid rate payment for municipalities. The increase provided in the budget bill was 2% in each year of the biennium. This provision would have mainly helped townships in Wisconsin. Unfortunately, the governor vetoed this provision, which means the townships will not see the increase in their mileage aid rate payment totaling about $6.92 million over the biennium.
I am excited that some of the provisions that I advocated for that will benefit the communities of the 14th Senate District were included in the 2023-25 state budget. These projects include the enumeration of the Montello/Fox River Lock Channel repairs. Funding was also provided to Buffalo Lake to assist with the payment for water studies suggested by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
The Wisconsin State Senate passed the 2023-25 Wisconsin State Budget on Tuesday, June 28th. I am proud of the budget that the Joint Committee on Finance created; a reasonable and responsible budget that makes major investments in the priorities of Wisconsinites. This budget was created after the committee held several public hearings across the state, and I am pleased to say this budget is made for Wisconsin.
Two of the areas that I am excited about are the investments we made in the Department of Tourism and State Building Commission. These areas allow us to invest in the future and be good stewards of the one-time funding available in this budget.
Tourism is our third leading industry in Wisconsin and serves as an important economic driver, not just for the state, but in the 14 Senate District as well. Recently, the Department of Tourism announced their economic impact numbers for 2022. This industry had a $23.7 billion dollar economic impact, a 13% increase from the economic impact of the industry in 2021. JFC made $45.5 million investment and provided the department with additional marketing flexibility. . This budget will continue to build on the hard work and success of the Department of Tourism, chamber and destination organizations around the state and the small businesses that struggled during the pandemic and are now regaining their footing. The committee established an opportunity fund through the department which will allow the Department of Tourism and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to work together to attract large scale events, like the NFL draft, to the state.
The budget passed by the legislature makes historic investments in the state’s building program. We invested $2,382,186,200 and just over half of that money, $1,234,081,900, was paid for with cash.
The legislature also provided $400 million to pay down the tobacco settlement appropriation obligation debt. The pay down on this bonding will save the state about $30 million annually in principal and interest.
This budget, created by the Joint Committee on Finance, is a smart investment of the state’s one-time surplus, and is a budget made for Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin State Assembly passed the budget bill on Thursday, June 29th, and the bill was presented to the governor on June 30th. As an appropriations bill, the governor can veto the budget in whole or in part. The governor has six days, excluding Sunday, after the bill is presented by the legislature to sign, or veto the legislation.
The Joint Committee on Finance (JFC) took up the final portions of the 2023-25 Wisconsin State Budget. The following agencies were acted on and closed during the June 22nd proceedings:
Budget Management and Compensation Reserves
Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority
Shared Revenue and Tax Relief
General Fund Taxes
Budget Stabilization Fund
University of Wisconsin System
In the committee’s final day of action, JFC passed $4.4 billion in tax cuts. This includes $3.5 billion in income tax cuts and $795 million in property tax relief.
We also provided state employees a four percent inflationary pay increase starting July 2023 and a two percent inflationary increase in 2024. Department of Corrections employees will have starting wages increased to $33 per hour. We will continue add-ons for those working in maximum-security facilities and for facilities with high vacancy rates. The committee also created add-ons for medium security facilities.
Under the budget for the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA), JFC made a $525 million investment in workforce housing efforts. This money will fund the workforce housing legislation that passed the legislature and was signed by the Governor on June 22, 2023. This funding includes:
- Residential Housing Infrastructure Revolving Loan Fund - $275 million (Act 14)
- Main Street Housing Rehabilitation Revolving Loan Fund - $100 million (Act 15)
- Commercial-to-Housing Conversion Revolving Loan Fund - $100 million (Act 18)
We also directed $50 million to the Workforce Housing Rehabilitation Loan Program and increased the Capital Reserve Fund Bonding Authorization from $800 million to $1 billion.
The committee directed $32 million from the current UW System budget to be set aside for workforce outcomes-based instruction.
The state budget has now passed out of the Joint Committee on Finance and will be taken up by both the Senate and the Assembly before being sent to the Governor’s office for his consideration.
On June 15, the committee held an executive session focused on the health of Wisconsinites, supporting the state’s children and families and the work done at the Department of Military Affairs.
The Department of Health Services provides a wide range of services to Wisconsinites, some of these services include providing medical assistance to those who are in a time of need. The committee provided an increase in reimbursement rates for several types of healthcare providers. Increasing reimbursement rates ensures that physicians are caring for those on medical assistance. The reimbursement rate for care provided to individuals on medical assistance is an issue we hear about from a variety of healthcare providers. The committee has increased those reimbursement rates for hospitals, primary care providers, emergency department physicians, chiropractors and behavioral health units in general medical and surgical hospitals. The committee provided over $2 million for the funding of Rural Critical Care Access Hospitals. These hospitals provide essential care to those who live in rural areas.
Long-term care is a critically important issue in the state and it is important that we care for those who are the most vulnerable. The committee invested $486 million in long-term care. The long-term care industry is seeing changes as more people opt for in-home care. We increased the reimbursement rate for Family Care Direct Care and provided a 5% increase for continuing the Home and Community Based Services program.
Mental and behavioral health is an issue that is, unfortunately, increasing. The Joint Committee on Finance provided $10 million for crisis and urgent care facilities, and started a new telemedicine crisis response pilot program. The new pilot program has been used in states like South Dakota and helps with their response to crisis situations, like suicide attempts, and deescalating them at the scene.
The committee’s full investment in the Department of Health Services, and the services that they provide for Wisconsinites, was $3 billion.
Childcare is a service that most parents and guardians rely on so they can continue in the workforce. The Joint Committee on Finance addressed issues around childcare when the committee worked on the biennial spending plan for the Department of Children and Families. The committee committed nearly $130 million in funding over the biennium for the assistance to Wisconsin’s children and families.
The Committee increased funding for the Wisconsin Shares Child Care Subsidy Program by increasing the participation threshold 200% of the poverty level, and increasing the co-pay phase-out to $1 for every $5. The committee also approved $30 million for the Quality Care for Quality Kids – Child Care Improvement Program, this provides money for the child care subsidy program.
We also created a Child Care Revolving Loan Fund. This is a $15 million grant through the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation that will be a revolving loan program that can be used to support childcare providers in Wisconsin with the creation of the childcare facility, or providing assistance when updating their facility. One of the increases provided under the adopted motion is the increase to the care taker supplement. This is an additional $275 for the first child and $165 for each additional child. JFC also continued the support of children in the child welfare system by increasing Kinship and Foster Care rates by 5%, and provided funding for tribal subsidized guardianships.
The committee’s June 15 action also included the Department of Military Affairs. The approved spending plan for the agency includes the one-time funding of $45 million for the replacement of the Statewide Interoperable Radio Network Replacement. This system, commonly referred to as WISCOM, is the infrastructure that allows for statewide emergency communication.
Wisconsin has an Urban Search and Rescue Task Force, also known as Wisconsin Task Force One. This highly skilled team responds to emergencies around the state, like the Cambria Mill Explosion. Very recently our Urban Search and Rescue Task Force was requested to assist in an apartment building collapse in Iowa. The committee approved over $1 million in funding for the team to receive the training needed for them to be an accredited Type 1 Urban Search and Rescue Team with the best lifesaving tools and training.
The Department of Military Affairs is tasked with a variety of important issue areas. Relating to the military we also approved the additional staffing needed to be heavy equipment operators who work with the F—35 aircraft at Truax Field in Madison. The committee also approved $2 million in funding for pre –disaster grants, as DMA is Wisconsin’s Emergency Management headquarters. JFC $500,000 in funding for our Wisconsin Hazardous Materials Response team. This team is critical when responding to potentially dangerous scenes like a train derailment.
State agencies closed in JFC’s proceedings on June 15th include:
- Children and Families
- Health Services
- Military Affairs
On June 13, the committee held an executive session focused on the transportation infrastructure and education in the state of Wisconsin.
The committee is investing a total of $1.55 billion in transportation funding across the state. The committee’s spending plan makes significant investments in local roads, bridges and agricultural roads. The legislature is committing more money and less bonding for the maintenance and repair of Wisconsin’s roads than was suggested by the Governor.
Money available for the repair of our local roads and bridges is $362.8 million, with another $386.8 million set aside for state highway improvement. The Governor’s budget proposal included $441 million in bonding for transportation projects, and the legislature’s budget includes $88 million less in bonding.
The legislature is working on the creation of the Agricultural Road Improvement Program. This program has been allocated $150 million in one-time funding for the repair of Class B and weight restricted roads. These roads need repair, and a program devoted specifically to their maintenance is important for the infrastructure that farmers and those in the agriculture industry heavily rely on.
We also approved significant funding for K-12 schools. The committee allocated more than $1 billion for education and maintains 2/3rds funding for schools. This investment provides millions of dollars for rural school districts and sets aside $50 million for literacy programs.
The total amount of general school aids provided by the committee for the biennium is over $534 million. This funding will help with special education, bilingual-bicultural aid, high cost transportation aid and sparsity aid, which benefits rural school districts. The committee worked to address the mental health crisis both through the spending plans for the Department of Health Services and by investing $30 million in school-based mental health programs.
State agencies closed in JFC’s proceedings on June 13th include:
- Public Instruction
On June 8, the committee held an executive session focused on the justice system and professional workers in the state.
Correctional officers, and employees at the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC), play a critical role in our state’s justice system. The committee’s action on June 8th did not address compensation plans for these employees. Compensation for DOC employees will be addressed by the committee when we vote on compensation reserves for all state employees. It is customary for the committee to take up compensation reserves on the last day of committee action on the Wisconsin State Budget.
The committee provided over $15 million annually to supplement the overtime payments for DOC employees and provided an increase in position authority for the department.
Successful societal reentry of those who were previously in prison is important to the health of our communities, and that is why the committee invested $2.3 million in the “Opening Avenues to Reentry Success” (OARS). This program helps with case management and provides mental health services to those who were convicted. We also invested in the technical mobile labs with $1.95 million over the biennium. This program gives people an opportunity to have hands-on job training on the grounds of the prison. So they can have skills to find a job when they reenter society.
Continuing the committee’s work in the justice system, we also closed out the spending plan for the Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ). One of the key focuses of the committee’s action on DOJ was funding initiatives to keep our children safe. We invested $2.5 million in critical incident mapping. This additional funding will help the DOJ get the remaining schools participating in the critical incident mapping program. This program assists law enforcement respond if there is ever an emergency situation in our schools. Protecting our children is crucial and we increased funding and position authority to help prevent internet crimes against children. This funding is intended to help deal with the volume of cases and tips that come into local law enforcement. Unfortunately, internet crimes against children have been on the rise and this increased state assistance will help respond to these crimes.
The Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) is home to a plethora of state services ranging from professional licensing, titling of manufactured homes, to the permitting of certain septic systems. The legislature is aware of, and has been acting to improve the responsiveness of the department. The committee added to the department’s licensing and building review positions. We approved the addition of six agency staff that will process the professional licenses of workers in the state. We added six positions for the call center, three positions for the review of building plans, and two positions for the review of private septic systems. Wisconsinites cannot wait months on end for the approval to work or learn where the application is for any range of permits that the department is tasked with administering. Increasing DSPS position authority will help Wisconsinites get the customer service they deserve from the department.
State agencies closed in JFC’s proceedings on June 8th include:
- Safety and Professional Services
On June 1, the committee held an executive session focused on the tourism industry, investing in our infrastructure and authorizing building projects in the State of Wisconsin.
The committee made the largest investment in the history of the Building Commission and the Building Program. We provided a total investment of $2,382,186,200 in the building program and $1,234,081,900 of the total investment was paid for in cash. With the state’s historic revenue surplus there are billions of dollars in one-time funds that the can be allocated for projects, like the construction and renovation of buildings, that do not need continued funding. Some of the building projects included in the motion for building commission are:
- 12 University of Wisconsin Campus Building Projects
- Stevens Point
- La Crosse
- Eau Claire
- Veterinary Diagnostic Lab in Barron
- Camp Randall Sports Center Replacement
- Improvements to Correctional Institutions and Health Service facilities
One of the building projects that will be great for the 14th Senate District is the Montello/Fox River Lock Channel Repairs. This project was fully enumerated.
Under the provisions included in the federal infrastructure bill there is over one billion dollars in federal funding for broadband internet expansion coming to the state. The federal money for broadband will be here soon and with so many internet expansion projects happening across the state, there is concern that there is not ability to take on an increase in project capacity.
The tourism industry is an economic boon for the state of Wisconsin, and especially the 14th Senate District. I am proud to have worked on a budget that is good for the Wisconsin Department of Tourism. The motion passed for the Department of Tourism provides an additional $22 million dollars in investment for this industry, this money is specifically for marketing and advertising funds. The motion also includes the creation of an Opportunity Attraction and Promotion fund. This $10 million investment will help to attract big events to the state like the recently announced NFL Draft hosted in Green Bay.
State agencies closed in JFC’s proceedings on June 1st include:
- Public Service Commission
- Appropriation Obligation Bonds
- Building Commission
- Building Program
On Thursday, May 25th, the committee met to continue work on sections of the Wisconsin State Budget. The committee’s focus on Thursday was around economic development in the state. The committee invested in an advanced technology system project for the Department of Revenue which will increase customer satisfaction and service. This upgrade will help the agency’s compliance bureau which is expected to increase program revenue by increasing collections of delinquent taxes.
The committee also completed its work with the Department of Employee Trust Funds (ETF) by providing funding to ensure that the world renowned pension plan is maintained as such. The motion passed for ETF allows for the modernization of the agency’s IT systems. The ETF motion also allowed for increased support staff which will improve customer service for those who participate in the retirement system.
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) is tasked with creating and maintaining an economic environment in the state that is welcoming to businesses big and small, and attracting new people to the state to add to our workforce. The committee estimates that WEDC will see an increase in revenue of $19 million over the next biennium. We also required that the committee expend $4 million from its existing appropriation for Talent Attraction and Retention Initiatives. This funding helps increase workforce in the state of Wisconsin, and at least $2 million of this would be used to recruit veterans to Wisconsin in their first move after being discharged from military service.
Work at the Wisconsin State Capitol is exciting, especially during the budget season, but it is not realistic to assume that all hard working Wisconsinites would be able to come to the Capitol to observe your government at work each time a piece of legislation or an event peaked your interest. The Wisconsin State Government is followed by “Wisconsin Eye”, a broadcast service within the building and around the state where there are state government events. The committee approved a $10 million one-time endowment for which the network will need to provide matching funds to access, which will give Wisconsinites the ability to view this exciting and informative government coverage from anywhere in the state. Transparency is important to members of the committee and this one-time money will increase transparency of Wisconsin State Government.
State agencies closed in JFC’s proceedings on May 25th include:
- Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation
- Employee Trust Funds
- Miscellaneous Appropriations
On Tuesday, May 23rd, JFC met and focused on a wide range of issues including Wisconsin’s workforce, veterans and higher education. Motions included in the budget show our dedication to investing in Wisconsin and creating a budget that is good for the entire state. We are investing in workforce development, caring for our veterans, and supporting programs that have proven to be helpful for higher education in Wisconsin.
We know that ensuring the structure and stability of education in Wisconsin, especially higher education, is a priority for many Wisconsinites. During the Tuesday meeting, the JFC allotted an additional $3 million into Career and Technical Education Incentive grants. Additionally, $5 million was provided to technical college campuses across the state to promote various student programs and subsequent engagement.
I will always be an advocate for Wisconsin veterans and commend them for their service and dedication to our country. It was wonderful to collaborate with JFC committee members to ensure that veterans of Wisconsin are taken care of. Funding for County Veteran Service Officers was increased by 25%. The committee also provided funding for the equipment upgrade for veterans cemeteries. The committee also approved increased funds for local governments that provide emergency services to our state’s veteran’s homes. This will help the 14th Senate District and the Wisconsin State Veterans Home at King.
The Tuesday meeting also covered supporting current worker programs. This means $92,200 was given to the Board on Aging & Long-Term Care. Further, information technology upgrades were approved for the Higher Educational Aids Board.
State agencies closed during JFC’s proceedings on May 23rd include:
- Workforce Development
- Veterans Affairs
- Higher Education Aids Board
- Wisconsin Technical College System
The committee’s meeting for Thursday the 18th covered a vast array of agencies that have an impact on agriculture and the environment. The committee’s focus on Thursday was the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), Environmental Improvement Fund (EIF) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
I have worked directly on the DATCP budget since we began the 2023-2025 biennial budget cycle. I am glad to have advocated for programs that are important to residents of the 14th Senate District with my colleagues on the committee. We increased funding for county and district fairs by $193,600 each year. The total funding for the county fair aids program will now be $650,000.
One of the bills that I authored last legislative session expanded Wisconsin’s Agricultural exports. The committee provided an extra $1 million for this program each year of the 2023-2025 biennium.
I have long been an advocate for mental health, and I am glad that the committee continued support for the Farmer Mental Health Assistance program at DATCP. We provided $100,000 for this program over the course of the biennium.
JFC also provided funding for Dairy and Meat Processor Grants. Dairy Processor Grants will be funded at $500,000 each year of the biennium, and Meat Processor Grants will be funded at $1,800,000 in 2023-24 and $200,000 in 2024-25.
The committee supported funding for innovative initiatives to benefit both agriculture and the environment in the DATCP budget. This funding supported county conservation staffing, nitrogen management, cover crop grants, and grants for Producer Led Watersheds.
A major focus of the committee’s work on Thursday was the historic investment in the state’s efforts to combat PFAS. The committee approved a $125 million investment, which is $18 million more than the Governor included in his budget proposal. The funding in this motion will be put in the newly created PFAS trust fund, and the funding will be comprised of $110 million of general purpose revenue and $15 million from the environmental management fund.
The committee addressed several other items for the DNR, aside from the historic work addressing PFAS. There was a $4 million investment in the dam safety grant program. Funding from this program is earmarked for four specific dam projects in the state. The committee also approved a large investment in our state parks to improve staffing and infrastructure.
The committee also included a budget motion that I authored to support studies the DNR has suggested for the Buffalo Lake Association to complete and address the water level issues at Buffalo Lake.
State agencies closed in JFC’s proceedings on May 18th include:
- Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection
- Environmental Improvement Fund
- Department of Natural Resources
On May 16th, the committee held an executive session focused on the justice system in Wisconsin. The work of the committee was great for public safety, law enforcement and Wisconsin’s Justice System. The committee took steps to support police, public defenders and prosecutors. Each of these positions are of great importance in the justice system, but we also know that supporting these positions looks different as each has a unique set of challenges.
District Attorney and Public Defender pay levels have been low, and we have seen that we are having a hard time retaining and recruiting people to fill these important positions. In a bipartisan, unanimous vote, JFC voted to increase pay for Assistant District Attorneys and Public Defenders by $8.76 per hour. The increase passed by the committee is a dollar more an hour than what was proposed by Governor Evers. This increased funding should help with retaining and recruiting people to fill these important positions. Unfortunately, we have seen good attorneys leave their position because the pay for their expertise is not adequate. Some District Attorneys (DA) have even left their position to be an Assistant District Attorney (ADA), because it paid better to be the second in command. This is an issue that we needed to address, and the improved pay rates should help to keep high-quality attorneys in the DA and Public Defender positions.
There are several Wisconsin counties that have not had appropriate staff levels for ADAs to handle the workload for their office. I am glad to have supported this motion, because it will help Sauk County, in the 14th Senate District, as well as Langlade, Oneida, Ozaukee and Kenosha counties by adding additional staff capacity.
During the committee’s proceedings on May 16th, we also provided funding to support Circuit Courts and the Wisconsin Supreme Court. As technology continues to advance, we need to be certain that the functions of government are protected from those who have malintent. The committee voted to fund cybersecurity programing for the Supreme Court. The cybersecurity initiative passed by the committee is supported by revenue that the court earns.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice’s biennial spending plan still has to be voted on by the committee.
State agencies closed during JFC’s proceedings on May 16th include:
- Circuit Courts
- Supreme Court
- District Attorneys
- Public Defenders
On May 4th, the committee met for the second executive session of the 2023-2025 biennial budget cycle. The committee closed out 11 more state agencies.
May is Mental Health Month and JFC approved several appropriations that will make great impact on the wellbeing of Wisconsinites. $7 million was approved for the expansion of the Psychiatry and Behavioral Health Residency Program through the Medical College of Wisconsin. The $7 million in funding will support at least 10 psychiatry residents in Wisconsin each year of the biennium. This program has proven to be a successful pipeline that will allow for increased access to mental healthcare providers.
We expanded funding by $1 million for Family Resource Centers that help with the prevention of child abuse and neglect and gave an increase of $1 million to expand the Positive Parenting Program (PPP) which runs through the Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board. PPP supports coaching for parents and families. This funding will allow the program to reach 1,000 new families.
JFC deleted 6.63 positions and did not provide position authority for seven new positions in the Governor’s proposal. My colleagues and I on JFC are committed to controlling the size of government while still maintaining quality services for Wisconsinites. JFC approved updated technology for specific agencies. Updating technology is an important investments in the state’s infrastructure. We saw the effects of un-updated technology with the Department of Workforce Development and the Department of Safety and Professional Services throughout, and following, the pandemic.
State agencies closed in JFC’s proceedings on May 4th include:
- Secretary of State
- Board on Aging and Long-Term Care
- Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board
- Board of Commissioners of Public Lands
- Employment Relations Commission
- Department of Financial Institutions
- State Treasurer
- Educational Communications Board
- Historical Society
- Medical College of Wisconsin
On May 2nd, the committee held the first executive session of the budget cycle and voted on several items. The committee voted to remove 545 non-fiscal policies from the Governor’s budget proposal. The State Budget is all about the numbers, and is a fiscal piece of legislation. The committee removed non-fiscal policy from the bill, because legislation that makes substantial policy changes is intended to go through the legislative process and the appropriate standing committee.
The second action taken by the committee was the adoption of a substitute amendment. The adoption of this amendment allows the committee to work from the adjusted base level of funding in the second year of the previous biennium. Building off of the base budget and eliminating non-fiscal policy will allow the committee to build a reasonable and responsible spending plan, funding the priorities of Wisconsinites.
After the adoption of Substitute Amendment One the committee accepted state agencies’ standard budget adjustments, sum sufficient appropriation estimates, and debt service appropriations. The inclusion of these spending plans allowed the committee to close several state agencies biennial spending plans.
State agencies closed in JFC’s proceedings on May 2nd include:
- Board for People with Developmental Disabilities
- Court of Appeals
- Elections Commission
- Fox River Navigational System
- Investment Board
- Judicial Commission
- Kickapoo Reserve Management Board
- Labor and Industry Review Commission
- Lieutenant Governor
- Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Board
- State Fair Park
- Wisconsin Health and Educational Facilities Authority