June 17, 2021

Executive Session Hearing Notice

WisconsinEye Video

The Joint Committee on Finance (JFC) took up portions of eight sections of the budget, including:

  • Employee Trust Funds
  • Compensation Reserves
  • Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority
  • Shared Revenue and Tax Relief
  • Department of Revenue
  • Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation
  • General Fund Taxes
  • Budget Stabilization Fund

 

The committee has now closed all 62 agencies and completed their portion of the budget process. Now, the budget bill will go on to be approved by both houses of the legislature, and then be sent to the governor to sign into law.

I am proud to have voted in favor of this budget in committee which provides a $3.4 billion tax cut, significant investments in K-12 education, health care, agriculture, tourism and more.

Compensation Reserves

  • Annual 2% general wage increase for state and University of Wisconsin System employees
  • Nursing Assistant and Resident Care Technician Pay Progression

Wisconsin nursing assistants and resident care technicians are invaluable in providing health services to our elderly and disabled veterans, intellectually disabled patients in intermediate care facilities and for our state’s inmate population. Not only will this pay progression incentivize people to stay in these positions, it will also help to provide consistent quality care.

  • $1.75 million to fund an hourly add-on wage increase for correctional officers and correctional sergeants

This wage increase will be made available to adult institutions that meet criteria and are understaffed in order to encourage people to fill those critical roles.

Department of Revenue

  • Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT)

When the state purchases land, it reduces property tax collections for our local municipalities. In an attempt to make up for these losses, the DNR provides PILT payments. PILT payments are calculated per acre based off of two different formulas. JFC’s action provides a healthy increase to PILT payments across the board, so that our municipalities will now receive at minimum $3.50 per acre. 

Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation

  • $200,000 Annually for Cooperative Feasibility Grants

One of the biggest hurdles to creating a cooperative is determining if it will be financially viable. These grants will help with feasibility studies to support the development of cooperatives which are vital to our rural economies.  

  • $3 million for Talent Attraction and Retention Initiatives

Wisconsin businesses can’t find workers to keep up with their demands. We should be investing in initiatives that show how great our state is and all of the opportunities it has to offer. This program will focus on getting that message out, expanding our job center opportunities and specifically target veteran employment in Wisconsin.

General Fund Taxes

  • $3.4 billion Tax Cut

This tax cut returns the unprecedented surplus to those who earned it by easing the tax burden on the middle class, main street employers and military service members. Over the past 10 years, Republican budgets have reduced taxes by over $13 billion.

  • Child and Dependent Care Expenses Tax Credit

Following the pandemic, our local businesses are desperate to find workers to keep up with demand. This tax credit will help get our families back to work by allowing those who are actively looking for work to claim expenses for child or dependent care.

  • Sales Exemption for Sweetened Dried Fruit

The cranberry is the state fruit, and Wisconsin is responsible for 59% of the nation’s production. We should be encouraging people to support our agriculture industry and consume one of our state’s top products, so I’m happy to see we are no longer treating dried cranberries the same as a candy bar. Under current law, food and food ingredients are exempt from the sales tax, except for a few examples such as candy. This will remove sweetened dried fruit from that exemption.

 

June 15, 2021

Executive Session Hearing Notice

WisconsinEye Video

The Joint Committee on Finance (JFC) took up portions of five sections of the budget, including:

  • Department of Health Services (DHS)
  • Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI)
  • Board on Aging and Long-Term Care
  • Department of Children and Families (DCF)
  • Public Service Commission (PSC)


With all of those departments now closed, the committee has completed 51 of the 62 agencies.

The current projected balance of the general fund is $4.5 billion, and the projected balance in the Rainy Day Fund is almost $2 billion.

Department of Health Services

  • $98.1 million for nursing home reimbursements

Nursing homes are reimbursed by DHS to provide services for individuals with intellectual disabilities that are eligible for medical assistance. These facilities incurred significant costs throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in order to keep our most vulnerable safe. JFC’s vote to increase their reimbursement rates by 12% will help support this population.

  • $40 million for direct care workers and $31 million for personal care workers

Direct care and personal care workers assist the elderly and disabled with daily living activities, including meal prep, house work, shopping and more. This additional investment will support increased rates paid to these critical workers.

  • $40 million for Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) Payments

These payments reimburse hospitals for the portion of services they provide to medical assistance recipients that isn’t covered by BaderCare.

  • 40% increase in Medicaid reimbursement rates for dentists

There is a lack of dental access around the state. Of Wisconsin’s 72 counties, 36 are designated as dental health professional shortage areas. This reimbursement rate will increase access to dental services, especially for medical assistance recipients as it was shown in the dental reimbursement pilot program.

  • 5% increase in Medicaid reimbursement rates for Physical Therapists

  • Over $3 million dollars to fund 18 Dementia Care Specialists

These 18 positions will provide a dementia care specialist for each county in our state. Specialists provide essential services like cognitive screening to those with dementia or who are exhibiting symptoms of developing dementia. Additionally, they provide programing, exercises and social activities to encourage independence for individuals with dementia.

  • $500,000 to Reach Out and Read Wisconsin

Reach Out and Read provides books to families during their regular health care screenings. It is shown that 80% of brain growth happens in the first year of life, and this program will help families feel confident in enhancing their child’s development.

Department of Children and Families

  • $132,000 annually for grants to Boys and Girls Clubs

  • $7.6 million for subsidized guardianship

Subsidized guardianship provides monthly subsidies to a relative, a person of like-kin or a foster parent who becomes the permanent legal guardian for a child when termination of parental rights and reunification are not in the child’s best interests.  

Public Service Commission

  • $125 million for broadband expansion

A total of almost $1 billion in broadband expansion money is moving through Wisconsin right now between federal pandemic relief dollars and state investments. This has been a focus following COVID-19 with people working, learning and receiving care from home.

 

June 10, 2021

Executive Session Hearing Notice

WisconsinEye Video

The Joint Committee on Finance (JFC) took up portions of 10 sections of the budget, including:

  • Department of Corrections (DOC)
  • Department of Children & Families (DCF)
  • Circuit Courts
  • Supreme Court
  • District Attorneys
  • Public Defender
  • Department of Justice (DOJ)
  • Legislature
  • Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP)
  • Department of Natural Resources (DNR)

With nine of those departments now closed (all listed above except DCF), the committee has closed 46 of the 62 agencies.

The current projected balance of the general fund is nearly $5.5 billion, and the projected balance in the Rainy Day Fund at the end of the biennium is almost $2 billion.

Department of Corrections & Juvenile Corrections Section of DCF

  • $200,000 annually for the Windows to Work Program

This program promotes self-sufficiency for individuals returning to the community after incarceration. It provides job training, placement and coaching while the inmates are still incarcerated and after they are released.

  • $400,000 annually for Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

In 2019, there were 15.8 opioid related deaths per 100,000 people in Wisconsin. Given that DOC has a high-usage population and controlled setting, this is the perfect situation to provide treatment for substance abuse disorders. MAT uses medicine in conjunction with counseling and behavioral therapy to treat opioid abuse.

  • Funds and provides positions for the Oakhill Correctional Institution Assisted Needs Facility

This new facility will provide 65 beds for inmates who require increased access to medical resources due to lack of mobility, diminishing cognitive ability, poor health or other intensive needs relating to age or disabilities. This is much needed with our aging population.

  • Over $4 million dollars annually for Youth Aids

 

District Attorneys and Public Defenders

  • Provides additional funding for pay progression for District Attorneys and Public Defenders
  • Adds additional District Attorney positions in Sauk, Columbia, Fond du Lac and Lafayette Counties
  • Increases funding for surveillance video evidence storage
  • $21,800 annually for interpreters

 

Department of Justice

  • $2.5 million for the Treatment Alternatives and Diversion Program Expansion and Administration

The TAD program offers alternatives to prosecution and incarceration to non-violent offenders whose substance abuse is a contributing factor in their criminal offense. This program typically offers either pre-trial diversions such as substance abuse or mental health treatment, or adult drug court models which offer the offender the choice of entering mandatory treatment services or following sentencing recommendations.

  • $2 million for Law Enforcement Training Grants

This money will allow for local law enforcement agencies to have a sustainable method for providing required training.

  • $2 million for body worn cameras
  • $1.548 million for County Victim Witness Reimbursement
  • $375,000 annually for Internet Crimes Against Children
  • $455,000 for Crime Lab Toxicology Testing equipment

 

Legislature

  • $225,000 per year in one time funding for WisconsinEye support

WisconsinEye provides live and recorded coverage of all things that happen in and around the Capitol. It provides transparency for government procedures so people all around the state can tune in and see what is being discussed.

Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection

  • $250,000 annually in additional funds for Producer-Led Watershed Protection Grants

The Producer-Led Watershed Protection Grant program is farmers helping farmers. It allows them to come together to share best practices and stories on how to best conduct nonpoint source water pollution prevention and control. This includes education and outreach as well as water and soil monitoring and testing.

  • $4.4 million for County Conservation Staffing Grants

This investment will fully fund a second county conservation staff person for every county in the state. These staff use their expertise and work with farmers and the agriculture community to implement activities that prevent soil erosion and runoff of nutrients and pollution into our waters.

Department of Natural Resources

  • $32 million annually over 4 years to reauthorize the Warren Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program

The stewardship program preserves our state’s beautiful natural resources, wildlife habitats and expands opportunities for outdoor recreation activities. This program has funded important projects in the 14th Senate District, including the Tichora Conservancy, previously known as Camp Grow. Preserving these lands is central to making sure Wisconsin continues to be a leader in outdoor tourism and recreation.

  • $220,200 for shoreline restoration at Beaver Dam Lake
  • $2 million annually for Well Compensation Grants
  • $1.5 million for the Parks Development Fund
  • Provides bonding authority for dam safety grants

 

June 8, 2021

Executive Session Hearing Notice

WisconsinEye Video

The Joint Committee on Finance (JFC) took up portions of six sections of the budget, including:

  • Department of Military Affairs (DMA)
  • Department of Administration (DOA)
  • Volkswagen Settlement
  • Building Commission
  • Building Program
  • Department of Transportation (DOT)


With four of those departments now closed (DMA, DOA, DOT, Building Commission), the committee has closed 37 of the 62 agencies.

New revenue estimates released yesterday, project the current balance of the general fund at nearly $5.6 billion.  

Department of Military Affairs

JFC took up important provisions that will continue to keep our friends and neighbors safe and prepared for disasters. This includes:

  • Providing $500,000 to transform the state’s previous Structural Collapse Team into an Urban Search and Rescue Team

In 2018, there was an explosion in the 14th Senate District at Didion Milling. The state’s Structural Collapse Team responded to this explosion and saved five lives that day. If we were to continue to allow this team to be inactive following the lapse of its contact, more lives across the state would be at risk. I am proud to see our investment in not only reinvigorating this group, but expanding its practices to include services such as swift water rescues and other emergency responses to meet the federal designation.

  • Fully funding the Next Generation 911 Emergency Services Protocol Network and Geographical Information System Database


This upgrade to our current 911 system will allow for more helpful data in responding to emergency situations. When you call 911 now, if you are on a county line, the responders have to figure out what municipality’s jurisdiction you are in, transfer you if necessary and then respond. This new network and GIS data will allow for departments to respond more quickly and accurately.

  • Providing $500,000 and $6,000,000 in JFC’s supplemental appropriation to begin the first step in replacing the Wisconsin Interoperable System for Communications (WISCOM)


Department of Administration

  • $7 million for grants to American Indian tribes or bands in Wisconsin that will support their programs
  • $350,000 to support the Tribal Youth Wellness Center
  • $109,300 for the UW-Green Bay educational summer camp developed in partnership with Oneida Nation of Wisconsin


Building Commission

JFC invested in many priorities across the state that effect industries such as agriculture, tourism, natural resources and higher education

  • Over $36 million for the Department of Natural Resources projects

Wisconsin saw 12% increases in state park admissions and camping during the pandemic, and this money will be used to update facilities and create welcome centers at our state parks. As I’ve mentioned in the tourism section, Wisconsin is a leader in outdoor recreation, and to remain a top destination we need to have top-notch facilities.

  • Over $628 million for University of Wisconsin System projects
    • Almost $10 million for the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab in Barron County

This funding goes toward projects across the state and university system. Projects include facility updates at Oshkosh, Stevens Point, La Crosse, Green Bay, River Falls and more.

  • $40 million for a new Milwaukee Public Museum

Nearly 23 million people visit Milwaukee each year. As the largest city in our state, it is a huge driver of tourism. I was proud to support this funding to construct this new museum which will highlight the intersection of nature and culture in our state.

Department of Transportation

I was happy to join my JFC colleagues in investing in critical infrastructure programs that will help our municipalities complete projects across the state. These important investments include:

  • $100 million for the Local Roads Improvement Program (LRIP)
  • Increase funding for General Transportation Aids including a 2% increase for both county and municipal aid
  • Over $2 billion all funds to the State Highway Rehabilitation Program
  • Lowest bonding levels in decades

June 2, 2021

Executive Session Hearing Notice

WisconsinEye Video

The Joint Committee on Finance (JFC) took up portions of five departments, including:

  • Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP)
  • Department of Natural Resources (DNR)
  • Department of Workforce Development (DWD)
  • Environmental Improvement Fund (EIF)
  • Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS)

With three of those departments now closed (DWD, EIF, DSPS), the committee is officially over half way through the 62 agencies.

The current projected balance of the general fund is $1,639,721,900.

I was proud to lead my JFC colleagues in adopting robust investments in agriculture and natural resources. These are areas my office has been focusing on since the beginning of this budget process, and our investments will help these important industries now and into the future.

Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection Highlights:

  • Over $2,000,000 to create a comprehensive agriculture export program

Representative Kurtz (R-Wonewoc) and I introduced a bill this session that will direct DATCP, in coordination with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, to create a plan and achieve export objectives in dairy, meat, fish, crop and other agricultural product exports by 25% by 2026.

  • $400,000 to create a meat processor grant program and provide four state meat inspector positions.

My local meat processors, and meat processors across the state, have been stretched thin during the pandemic and were forced to lengthen their slaughtering hours or create months-long waiting lists. Our action will help them be innovative and expand their facilities as well as allow them to meet state and federal standards of practice more quickly.

  • $200,000 to continue investing in farmer mental health

Last session, I lead a task force on suicide prevention which focused on supporting certain at-risk populations including those who work in the agriculture industry. Data shows this industry faces a much higher rate of suicide than other industries. This investment will help touch more of our farm families and create a lasting impact in our local communities.

  • $800,000 increase to the Dairy Processor Grant program

 

Department of Natural Resources Highlights:

  • $5 increase to the waterfowl stamp

This increase will help complete waterfowl and wetland conservation projects. The stamp price will now be $12. The last time the stamp was increased was in 1997.

  • $750,000 annually in increased ATV fund authorized expenditures
  • $250,000 annually in increased ATV/UTV trail aids expenditures
  • $200,000 annually in increased snowmobile aid expenditure authority
  • $380,600 annually in increased boating aid expenditure authority

 

DWD Highlights:

  • $2 million for youth apprenticeship grants
  • $25,000 for DWD to conduct a study on the unemployment insurance system
  • Expanded the youth summer jobs program to more locations outside the city of Milwaukee

 

DSPS Highlights:

  • $100,000 for the youth volunteer firefighting training grant program
  • $250,000 to make technical changes to the prescription drug monitoring program

 

 

May 27, 2021

Executive Session Hearing Notice

WisconsinEye Video

The Joint Committee of Finance has now closed 30 out of 62 agencies. The May 27th hearing closed the following agencies:

  • Department of Public Instruction (DPI)
  • University of Wisconsin System (UW)
  • Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS)
  • Higher Educational Aids Board (HEAB)

 

Education was the topic of the day, and JFC Republicans included historic increases for schools who took priority in providing in-person education. The committee also voted to increase funding for priorities including special education,  mental health, sparsity and high cost transportation aids.

On the higher education side, a total of over $22 million was invested between the UW, WTCS and HEAB. This includes ending the tuition freeze and providing funding for nurse educator programs.

At this point, the projected General Fund balance is $1,989,721,900.

ESSER III:

The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) education stabilization fund was created under the federal CARES Act in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic. ESSER provides funds directly to K-12 educational agencies. Ninety percent of the funding provided gets disbursed through the Title I funding formula, and the remaining ten percent the state can come up with a plan to disburse those dollars. Two rounds of this funding have already been passed and schools can claim obligations through September 30th of 2022 in the first round and September 30th of 2023 in the second round.

JFC took up the plan for the third round of funding which included:

  • $781/pupil minimum for districts who provided at least 50% in-person instruction
  • Increasing the minimum grant awards for four state or county-run institutions
    • $300,000 for the School for the Blind
    • $400,000 for the School for the Deaf
    • $700,000 for Syble Hopp and Lakeland Schools which are county-run schools for students with special needs.
  • $5 million for an initiative to improve reading instruction for education programs at UW institutions. Reading creates a foundation for success. Students learn to read so they can read to learn for the rest of their lives.

 

DPI & Higher Education:

In total, JFC voted to invest $128 million on top of the provided federal funding to K-12 education. The Republican motion saves the state a difference of $1.5 billion over what Democrats proposed and allows us to fund our largest priorities while continuing to responsibly budget for other areas.

 

DPI highlights:

  • $85.4 million investment into general special education aids and $4 million for high cost special education. This historic investment will help our state reach the 30% reimbursement rate benchmark in the second year of the biennium.
  • $12 million toward mental health program aids - doubling our current allocation and providing an additional $7 million for school-based mental health service grants. The pandemic emphasized the need to increase supports for the mental health of our youth. With isolation, lack of typical supports such as friends, formal counseling, etc., providing funding for mental health is critical as we return our students to in-person classes.
  • $350 million into the existing rainy day fund that could later be used for additional education funding.
  • $13 million to high cost transportation aids which assist rural school districts in transporting students across long distances.
  • $6.32 million for sparsity aid.
  • Increases in the pupil transportation aid reimbursement rate from $365 to $375.
  • Provides an increases to our school and public libraries.

 

UW, WTCS, HEAB highlights:

  • $8.25 million to targeted programs within the UW system. This includes the Freshwater Collaborative which is a partnership between UW campuses, students, industry leaders and local communities to train the next generation of water researchers. Also included in this allocation is a program for foster youth who are pursuing higher education. This program will help students transition to campus life in areas where parents would traditionally provide support, such as funding for things like towels, bedding and other basic needs, and offering personal and life skills supports.
  • $5 million to support nurse educator programs. Our state, like many others, is struggling finding students interested in filling teaching roles in the nursing profession. These roles often require students to earn a masters or doctoral degree, While also facing a nursing shortage, this program will be critical in being able to support the demand of this growing field.
  • $2 million for UW-Extension Cooperative County Agriculture Agents who provide research assistance and education to farmers, producers and others in the ag industry.
  • $9 million total investment into WTCS.
  • Ends the UW tuition freeze.

 

May 20, 2021

Executive Session Hearing Notice

WisconsinEye Video

The Joint Committee on Finance has closed three additional agencies and took action on four total departments including:

  • Department of Administration
  • Elections Commission (Closed)
  • Ethics Commission (Closed)
  • Department of Tourism (Closed)

 

Department of Tourism:

Tourism is the third largest industry in Wisconsin and will play a critical role in reinvigorating our state post-pandemic. It has been shown that every $1 invested in tourism promotion returns $8 in tax revenue. I am happy to see this investment into our tourism marketing so we can welcome more visitors into our wonderful state and continue to support the over 200,000 jobs related to this industry.

Additionally, JFC voted to continue to fund the Office of Outdoor Recreation that was created in 2019. This office was started right before the pandemic and the committee would like to see how it performs once things start returning to normal. This office is tasked with promoting Wisconsin’s natural resources and expanding our state’s status as a top destination for outdoor fun and relaxation.

The 14th Senate District is home to one of the state’s top travel destinations and the waterpark capitol of the world, Wisconsin Dells. It is also home to Wisconsin’s deepest lake and many trails, bike paths and natural attractions. Support for the tourism industry will help support our local communities.

Other Highlights:

JFC decided to lower the matching funds for the Homeless Employment Program to incentivize municipalities to participate. In the past, there were few applicants because the required matching rate was not accessible to many organizations. This action preserves the program, a program the governor wanted to eliminate in his budget proposal.

The committee also voted to reorganize a position within the Ethics Commission to serve as the Deputy Administrator and invested in technology and positions to protect voter data security and elections from cyber-attacks.

Currently, 26 out of 62 agencies have been closed and the projected balance in the General Fund at this point is $2,585,000,000.

 

May 13, 2021

Executive Session Hearing Notice

WisconsinEye Video

The Joint Committee of Finance has now closed 23 out of 62 agencies. The May 13th committee hearing took action on the following agencies:

  • Board of Commissioners of Public Lands
  • Veterans Affairs
  • Educational Communications Board
  • Historical Society
  • Financial Institutions
  • Lieutenant Governor
  • Employment Relations Commission
  • Revenue – Departmentwide

 

Veterans Affairs:

Our budget includes great investments for our state veterans. We provided a $76,200 increase per year for the County Veteran Service Officer (CVSO) grants. CVSOs play a critical role in veteran advocacy. We also included increased funding for organizations like the American Legion or VFW to aid veterans in navigating disability or other assistance programs.

As we have seen over the past year, the COVID pandemic hit our veterans and assisted living homes hard. JFC approved an additional $10 million as a reserve so that no matter who is the governor at the time, we are able to adequately respond to future natural disasters or pandemics. This will specifically help the 14th Senate District since King Veteran’s Home, one of Wisconsin’s three veteran’s homes, is located in the district.

Also of special importance to me is the $100,000 JFC allocated to help support veteran suicide prevention. As past chair of the Speaker’s Task Force on Suicide Prevention, I am happy to see our state invest in this high-risk population.

Financial Institutions:

JFC chose to support IT modernization necessary to allow Wisconsin to support online notary changes that were enacted last session through my bill, 2019 Act 125. Over 20 states have already passed similar legislation and demand increased during the pandemic when people were trying to limit contact.

So far, JFC action has resulted in a reduction of 26.8 positions, and at this point, there would be a surplus of $1.75 million on June 30, 2023.

 

May 6, 2021

Executive Session Hearing Notice

WisconsinEye Video

Governor Evers’ budget proposal was unworkable, it would have raised taxes by over $1 billion and included many divisive policy items that should be considered as separate legislation. The Joint Committee on Finance (JFC) voted to remove those non-fiscal and policy issues from the budget, allowing the committee to work from our current budget, which the governor signed two years ago.

JFC held public listening sessions, individual legislators held public hearings and the Joint Finance Budget Comments email was live for public comments. From here, we can reasonably and responsibly build on priorities we have heard from constituents and stakeholders from across the state.

Additionally, JFC voted to incorporate standard budget adjustments which helps us account for changes in staffing, leases and general office operations.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Evers directed several agencies to find cuts in their budgets. Some of those cuts included $7 million from Child Welfare Services and $801,300 from the Department of Tourism. The committee urged the governor to reverse these cuts and allow these important services to resume. However, the committee did choose to right-size the scope of government and adopted some of the lapses relating to space rentals and general program operations for nine agencies.

At the end of the May 6th JFC exec, we were able to close 16 agencies for the remainder of the budget process. Those agencies include:

  • Appropriation Obligation Bonds
  • Board for People with Developmental Disabilities
  • Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board
  • Court of Appeals
  • Fox River Navigational System Authority
  • Governor
  • Investment Board
  • Judicial Commission
  • Kickapoo Reserve Management Board
  • Labor and Industry Review Commission
  • Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Board
  • Medical College of Wisconsin
  • Secretary of State
  • State Fair Park
  • State Treasurer
  • Wisconsin Health and Educational Facilities Authority

 

JFC action resulted in a net benefit of $434,365,200 to the general fund, and if we stopped at this point, would have a surplus of $2.5 billion on June 30, 2023.