Capitol Update

by Senator Howard Marklein

June 9, 2023

Budget Bulletin & Ag Roads


The Joint Committee on Finance (JFC) met on Thursday, June 8, 2023. We completed our work on the Department of Corrections (DOC), the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Department of Safety & Professional Services (DSPS) and the Department of Administration (DOA).
First and foremost, it is important to note that our action related to the DOC did not address compensation for DOC employees. We will be discussing raises for DOC employees when we act on all of the compensation reserves for state employees.  This is usually scheduled for the last day of JFC action and we plan to make an investment at that time.
Our work on DOC provided support for the agency to respond to population growth in our state prisons and invested in programming that helps offenders return to society with employment skills, mental and physical healthcare and the tools they need to live in our communities.
We invested in school safety, efforts to prevent internet crimes against children, Treatment and Diversion (TAD) programming, the forensic crime lab and support for law enforcement in the DOJ section of the budget. We invested in necessary programs that fight crime and provide tools for law enforcement.
For the last two years, I have been very vocal about my disappointment in the professional licensure process at DSPS.  Today we answered the call from industry to add licensing and building review positions, as well as positions in the call center, to move licenses and building plans along efficiently so that workers can participate in the workforce.
I am hopeful that this agency will continue to improve.  However, if you, or someone you know, is having difficulty with the professional licensure process, please do not hesitate to contact my team and we will work to get your license issued. We need you in the workforce and any delay is unacceptable.
In addition to our work on the State Budget, the Senate also held a floor session and passed my Agricultural Roads Improvement Program (ARIP) bill with bi-partisan, unanimous support!
The ARIP bill creates a new $150 million grant program for the improvement of agricultural roads to help ag producers and suppliers move goods to and from the farm.
The funding in ARIP is targeted to the first-mile roads and bridges that farmers use every day. These are the small, Class B and weight-restricted roads that connect our farms to county and state highways. Unfortunately, many of these roads are in awful condition and our small towns need financial support to maintain and improve them. This program fills this need.
Class B roads are the rural, country roads on which many farms are located.  Farmers, and their suppliers, must navigate these roads to move goods to and from the farm. Unfortunately, for most towns, these are low-traffic, low-priority roads, but they are very important to the farmers who live and work on them. The goal of the program is to repair these roads and small bridges so that they will no longer be weight-restricted. The ARIP bill includes prioritization criteria to ensure money is used most effectively.
We prioritize projects that increase access to the largest number of farmers, are located on the oldest roads, lead to the largest reduction in deferred or repeated trips, have the greatest economic impact, target roads where the only feasible access to a farm is a single road, and provide funding to towns that cannot otherwise afford to maintain or repair these roads.
This is a wise investment of the one-time funds in our state surplus. This bill is widely supported by the entire ag-industry.  SB 247 passed the Senate on Wednesday, June 7, 2023 unanimously. It will now be considered by the State Assembly.
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. I want to hear from you.