Capitol Update

by Senator Howard Marklein

December 15, 2023

2023 Year in Review

As we often do this time of year, my team and I are reviewing our performance and work for you in 2023.  I am proud of everything we accomplished, the foundations that are set for 2024 and our ongoing service to the people of the 17th Senate District.
Inauguration Day in January 2023 launched my third term as your State Senator. It is also my second session as Co-Chair of the Legislature’s budget-writing Joint Committee on Finance (JFC). This is a tremendous honor and I appreciate the trust of my colleagues and the people of Wisconsin as we crafted the state budget.
I am proud to report that we funded our priorities and met our obligations.  We have attempted, several times, to return the massive surplus to taxpayers, with several middle class tax cuts, but they have each been vetoed by the Governor. I would rather that your money be returned to you. We’ll keep trying.
Beyond your tax cut, we deliberately focused ongoing funding on our priorities – K-12 education, roads and health care. We ensured that all core services of state government are affordable and planned for.
We provided $1.2 billion in new, spendable resources for K-12 education and worked with the Governor on this part of the proposal. We exceeded 2/3 funding in each year of the budget and provided $325 more per pupil in each year. 
We allocated $1.5 billion more for transportation, which includes $362.8 million for local roads and bridges. I was proud to lead the effort to include $150 million for our vital agricultural roads through the Agriculture Road Improvement Program (ARIP). I was also proud to secure $4.18 million for County Hwy O in Richland County to finish Phase II. We kept all projects on schedule and with virtually no borrowing.
We directed $3.1 billion for health services, including directing federal funds to our core services. This includes $387 million for hospitals, $195 million for nursing homes, and $41 million toward meeting Wisconsin’s mental health needs.
We approved $2.4 billion for capital building projects throughout the state, which was the largest investment in state history – and we paid cash for the projects! We funded projects across Wisconsin including more than $955 million of projects on UW campuses. We funded improvements at state parks and state forests. We funded improvements at several correctional institutions and provided funding for an additional type 1 juvenile facility. Every corner of the state will see an impact from our Capital Budget, including several local communities:

  • $5.6 million for the Skilled Care Unit Remodel at Sand Ridge Secure Treatment Center
  • $1.1 million for Boebel Hall Bio-Chemistry Lab Renovation at UW-Platteville
  • $4.7 million for UW-Platteville Williams Field House Exterior Envelope Maintenance Repairs

We increased pay for Correctional Officers, District Attorneys (DAs), Assistant District Attorneys (ADAs) and Public Defenders (PDs), and State Patrol. Pay for law enforcement and criminal justice professionals has been lagging and creating massive vacancies. The pay increases we allocated in the budget will not solve the problem overnight, but we are hopeful that they will help with retention and recruitment into the future.
In addition to the budget, I have authored 26 bills.  Six of my bills have been signed into law including Act 13 to create ARIP, Act 69 to designate Hwy 80 as the Desert Shield and Desert Storm Memorial Highway and Act 77 which further reforms our state broadband grant program.
I am currently working on legislation to bring the Crisis Now model for emergency mental health services to Wisconsin. It is the ideal solution to this major problem. The Crisis Now model incorporates regional or statewide crisis call centers, 24/7 mobile crisis support services that can be deployed when needed and short-term regional residential crisis stabilization facilities.
Rep. Travis Tranel (R-Cuba City) and I are working on a bill to add two rural members to the state’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Board to give our small, rural, volunteer departments a voice on this policy-making board.
Rep. Tony Kurtz (R-Wonewoc) and I wrote legislation to create Campus Community Transition Grants which will provide $2 million to help communities where a UW branch campus closes to in person instruction.  We originally wrote this bill to help Richland County redevelop the UW Richland campus, but now UW-Oshkosh Fond du Lac and UW-Milwaukee Washington County also qualify.
Finally, I am working on a bill to enable private companies to own and operate electric vehicle (EV) charging facilities throughout Wisconsin. Kwik Trip and other retailers have asked us to change state law so that they can re-sell electricity and explore opportunities in the EV charging industry.
Beyond legislation, this year, my team and I have fielded more than 7,000 contacts via email, phone, US mail and in person. These contacts range from questions to requests for assistance to sharing an idea or opinion. While we may not always agree, it is my goal to listen and respond to your ideas and concerns effectively. I am blessed to work for an engaged, energized senate district and appreciate your willingness to work with me as I represent you.
As always, please do not hesitate to connect with me to provide input, ideas or to seek assistance.  Send an email to sen.marklein@legis.wisconsin.gov or call 608-266-0703.