Capitol Update
by Senator Howard Marklein
December 20, 2019


2019:Year In Review


I am quickly wrapping up the first year of my second term as your State Senator. Thank you for trusting me to represent you, serve our communities and work on your behalf in the Wisconsin State Senate.
2019 has been a very productive year and I am proud of everything that we have accomplished together. Dozens of residents of the 17th Senate District have personally worked with me to write bills, fix local problems and strategize for the future. The best, most impactful ideas, come from you. You are in our communities, running your businesses, leading organizations, working hard, raising families and volunteering to help your neighbors. You know what is working, what is not and what we can do better.
As a result of our work together, eight bills I authored have been signed into law.  These bills include two to help rural education, a law to increase access to capital for agricultural businesses and a bill to improve 911 services statewide. I have asked my colleagues in the Senate to consider another seven proposals during our floor session in January.
I also recently circulated three bills to support local, rural Emergency Medical Services (EMS) as a result of the four EMS Summits I held this fall. Nearly 70 EMS volunteers, representing 30 different departments, attended these summits to provide input on ways to help them to continue to provide life-saving services in our communities. I am optimistic that these three bills will move swiftly through the legislative process this spring.
Beyond legislation, I have worked closely with several local leaders to solve local problems. When the roads around the Tri-County Airport in Richland County were flooding and threatening area homes, I helped Roger Petrick, the Richland County Highway Commissioner, to clear obstacles for the county’s plan to respond. While it’s still a work in progress, I also demanded that the Department of Transportation (DOT) meet with Necedah School Superintendent Tanya Kotlowski and local officials to discuss the speed limit in front of the high school. We have met and the DOT has designed some solutions, despite their initial unwillingness to act.
My team and I have also received and responded to 11,676 contacts this session, since January 1, 2019.  These contacts come in the form of phone calls, emails, letters and in-person conversations. The 17th Senate District is truly engaged. Thank you for participating in the legislative process.
Last spring, my focus was almost entirely dedicated to work on the State Budget. I am proud to say that our version of the state budget invests in the people of Wisconsin and the needs of our communities while protecting taxpayers. It is especially helpful for rural Wisconsin and I worked hard to make sure the rural voice was heard in this discussion.  Rural Wisconsin matters.
Our budget funded your priorities. We put a lot of money into the things you told us to fund – roads, healthcare, education and more. We did not cut anything.
We also included a Middle Class Tax Cut for Working Families. While every taxpayer will receive a cut as their income passes through the first two tax brackets, 89% of the people who will most benefit from the tax cut make less than $150,000 per year. This tax cut is made with existing resources that resulted from eight years of positive reforms. You earned it!
Highlights include:

  • Nearly $1 billion investment in roads by 2021.
  • I fought for $75 million for local road funding.
  • $1.6 billion for healthcare access and care for those who need it most.
  • $500 million more for schools - total school spending $12.3 billion in the next biennium.
  • We responded to the top three requests from school districts statewide:

1.     Increase per pupil aid – we increased per pupil funding by $200 and $204 over the next four years - $640 total.

2.     Increase special education funding – we increased special education funding by nearly $100 million – will cover 30% of costs by 2021.

3.     Ensure funding provided can be counted on for years to come – done.

  • $48 million to expand rural broadband in our communities.
  • $8.8 million for the Dairy Innovation Hub and Agency Support Staff for Ag needs.
  • Created three positions at DATCP to regulate and support the Industrial Hemp industry.
  • Invested $200,000 for DATCP to design a farmer mental health program.
  • $100 million more and $1 billion for capital projects for the University of Wisconsin System.
  • Well-deserved pay raises for Correctional Staff.
  • More funding for Producer-led Watershed grants that have been very successful in the 17th District.
  • $475,000 for grants for County Conservation Staff.
  • $4 million for sediment clean-up bonding.
  • $6.5 million for rural nonpoint source water pollution abatement grants.
  • Added scientists, increases to the areas that matter most and support for environmental protection.
  • Reauthorized the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund for two years.

Overall, 2019 has been a positive, busy, productive year. I am looking ahead to 2020 with a plan to complete several projects I started this year and lead us into the next decade with a collaborative spirit and determination to make sure that rural Wisconsin matters in the State Capitol.

For more information and to connect with me, visit my website http://legis.wisconsin.gov/senate/17/marklein and subscribe to my weekly E-Update by sending an email to Sen.Marklein@legis.wisconsin.gov. Do not hesitate to call 800-978-8008 if you have input, ideas or need assistance with any state-related matters.