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Joint Finance Committee Restores Stewardship Program and $50
million to University System
The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) met late into the day on
Friday, May 29th to work on issues related to the Department of
Natural Resources (DNR) and the University System. We made
several significant changes to the Governor’s proposed budget in
response to input from constituents and stakeholders. Overall, I
believe the following adjustments improve our state’s financial
stability while supporting funding priorities at responsible
We invested $33 million into the DNR’s Stewardship Program, $12
million into local assistance grants and protected
public-private partnerships with a few changes to make the
programs more financially solvent.
Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program was designed to preserve
valuable natural areas and wildlife habitat, protect water
quality and fisheries, and expand opportunities for outdoor
recreation. The conservation and recreation goals of the
Stewardship Program are achieved through the acquisition of land
and easements, development of recreational facilities, and
restoration of wildlife habitat.
In the 2013-2015 budget, the legislature required the DNR to
sell 10,000 acres of land that does not meet the goals of the
department. For example, the DNR owns a parcel in an industrial
park that is surrounded by industry and cannot be used by the
department to meet their programming needs.
Rather than freeze land acquisitions and bonding, my colleagues
and I proposed to allow the DNR to purchase new land only after
they sell a parcel of currently-owned stewardship lands that do
not meet programming goals. Half of the proceeds from the sale
will be reinvested in stewardship purchases and the other half
will be directed to debt service.
We also maintained science and research in the DNR. The
department employs more than 700 scientists who work on
everything from wildlife and fisheries to water quality and
permit issuance. While we adopted the Governor’s recommendation
to eliminate 18.4 positions in science services, 6.4 of these
positions are vacancies and 40 positions remain active.
Throughout our discussion with the DNR, the Department discussed
their intention to integrate many of the positions into the
existing bureaus such as the Bureau Wildlife Management and the
Bureau of Fisheries Management.
The JFC asked the DNR to prioritize applied science research to
guide management decisions that impact our state’s natural
resources and stakeholders. We also prioritized funds from the
Pittman Robertson fund to be applied more directly to hunting,
trapping and fishing issues such as habitat management, deer
advisory councils and deer management assistance. Pittman
Robertson funds are gathered directly from hunting and fishing
licenses and we believe that these funds should be reinvested
directly into programs that support hunting and fishing in our
Switching gears, the JFC made significant decisions related to
the University of Wisconsin System. The JFC restored $50 million
in funding from Governor Walker’s original proposal to cut $300
In order to better manage financial resources, we gave the Board
of Regents freedom to manage their own procurement policies, but
froze tuition for two years so that students are not asked to
make up the difference. In addition, the Board of Regents is
also granted authority to make their own policies related to
tenure and shared governance, rather than the legislature making
these decisions for the agency.
With new flexibilities, the JFC added requirements that the UW
System would have to conduct an independent financial audit and
establish accountability measures in financial and
administrative management, research and economic development,
and educational performance. The Chancellors at our campuses
need to have increased flexibility to manage their operations.
We will now allow the Board of Regents to renegotiate leases.
UW-Platteville Chancellor Dennis Shields tells me that his
campus can save $250,000 per year by renegotiating existing
We also responded to concerns that the UW is not able to attract
and keep high-performing faculty because of financial
competition nationwide, by creating a merit pay program that
will allow individual campuses to respond to these needs
directly. We want campuses to be able to reward achievement and
performance while having the ability to keep excellent staff if
they are entertaining offers from other institutions.
Overall, the JFC is working hard to make responsible decisions
within the confines of our state’s finances. While the decisions
are difficult, I am proud of our work and look forward to
wrapping up the budget process very soon. I look forward to
continuing to communicate with you about these important issues
and welcome your input and ideas.
For more information and to connect with me, visit my website
http://legis.wisconsin.gov/senate/17/marklein and do not
hesitate to call 800-978-8008 if you have input, ideas or need
assistance with any state-related matters.
In the District
Constituent Appointment: Board of Agriculture, Trade and
On Wednesday, Doug Wolf, a farmer from Lancaster, was in the
Capitol for a public hearing for his appointment to the Board of
Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Doug, thank you for
your service to Wisconsin agriculture.
*Senator Marklein and Doug Wolf
Revenue Numbers: April 2015
The Wisconsin Department of Revenue (DOR) recently released a
report detailing general purpose revenue (GPR) taxes collected
by the agency for the month of April. Year to date collections
are for the first ten months of the fiscal year, which ends June
The DOR report also shows continued strong sales tax collection.
This is good news for our budget and shows that Wisconsin’s
economy is healthy.
The following table shows the Department of Revenue Collections
to date for April 2015.
Department of Revenue Collections, April FY2015
Collects to Date
Sales & Use
*Source: Department of Revenue
*Senator Marklein is pleased to provide this
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