Capitol Update
By Senator Howard Marklein
May 26, 2017

Budget Bulletin III: Higher Education and Health Services Highlight the Week

Higher Education and Health Services dominated the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) discussion this week.  We also discussed some administrative issues within the Department of Administration and a couple of smaller state agencies.

Following is a bulletin highlighting several issues we discussed to give you an inside view of our work on your behalf. For a full view of our proceedings, follow this link:
Supporting Students
Financial Aid for College Students in Wisconsin – We added $10.2 million to the Wisconsin Grant, a program that provides need-based grants for resident students attending institutions of higher education in Wisconsin. We increased the allocation to the UW System by $5.7 million, the Technical College system by $1.9 million, non-profit, private colleges by $2.6 million and tribal colleges by $44,000. This investment increases funding by 3.67% in the first year and 2.33% in the second year of the biennium for all institutions.
Tuition Freeze for UW System Institutions – We froze in-state tuition for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 academic years. Tuition has been frozen since 2013, making college costs more affordable for families in our state.
Increase funding for the University System – We increased funding by $31 million for the UW System through a performance funding model and an innovation fund.
The performance funding model rewards UW institutions who demonstrate success in efforts to (a) grow and ensure student access; (b) improve and excel at student progress and completion; (c) expand contributions to the workforce; and (d) enhance operational efficiency and effectiveness.
The innovation fund provides $5 million that will be distributed by the Board of Regents to UW institutions to increase enrollments in high demand degree programs. This will be done through a competitive process coordinated by the Board of Regents.
Taking Care of Wisconsin
We took many steps to take care of the health and well-being of the people of Wisconsin of all ages. Several of the initiatives such as the the Rural Critical Care Supplement to the Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) program and Grants for Training Allied Health Professionals and Advanced Practice Clinicians address major needs in rural Wisconsin.
Nursing Home Reimbursement Rates – We increased the Medical Assistance reimbursement rates paid to nursing homes by 2% in each year of the biennium. We are also increasing funding for behavioral and cognitive impairment incentive payments and to care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities.
Personal Care Worker Rate Increase – We increased the Medical Assistance reimbursement rate for personal care services by 2% in each year of the biennium. This will provide additional funding to pay the people who take care of those in our state who need help with daily living.
Dementia Care Specialists – many counties have Dementia Care Specialists who work with people and families struggling with dementia. The value of this role in our communities is proven and effective. We funded the existing 19 positions and included funding for 24 specialists beginning July 1, 2018 to expand the impact of Dementia Care Specialists in Wisconsin.
Graduate Medical Education – We increased funding for grants to establish graduate medical training programs in addiction medicine or addiction psychiatry by $1.5 million.
Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) Payments and Rural Critical Care Supplements – this funding is important to the medical providers in our communities. We increased payments to DSH facilities by $61 million, including Federal dollars. We also created a rural critical care supplement for hospitals that would otherwise qualify for DSH, but currently do not because they do not provide obstetric services.
Grants for Training Allied Health Professionals – I am proud to have originally proposed Senate Bill (SB) 165, legislation that was woven into the state budget this week. In this action, we provided $500,000 annually for matching grants for training allied health professionals such as radiographers, physical therapists, nutritionist, respiratory therapists, surgical technicians and certified nursing assistants. This allocation is meant to address the shortage and need for these professions in rural Wisconsin.
Grants for Advanced Practice Clinicians - We also provided $500,000 annually for a grant program to provide training opportunities for physician assistants, nurse practioners, certified nurse midwives, clinical nurse specialists or certified registered nurse anesthesiologists. This investment will help fund training, tuition, materials and stipends for reasonable expenses during training in rural areas.
SeniorCare – we allocated funding to continue SeniorCare in Wisconsin. While the funding needs of the program have decreased, SeniorCare continues to be a helpful and effective program.
Next week, we are scheduled to discuss:

  • Corrections -- Parole Commission
  • Supreme Court
  • District Attorneys
  • Investment Board
  • Administration -- Information Technology, Procurement, Housing
  • Workforce Development
  • Tourism
  • Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority
  • Fox River Navigational System Authority
  • Natural Resources
  • Board of Commissioners of Public Lands

To view our agenda for the next week, please visit our committee schedule.
For more information and to connect with me, visit my website and subscribe to my weekly E-Update by sending an email to  Do not hesitate to call 800-978-8008 if you have input, ideas or need assistance with any state-related matters.