PDF of Column


Capitol Update
By Senator Howard Marklein
May 31, 2019

Budget Bulletin III

JFC adds $57.7 million to $6.35 billion UW Budget,
Freezes Tuition for the fourth budget in a row!

The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) met in Executive Session on Tuesday, May 28, 2019 and took action on the University of Wisconsin (UW) System, environmental quality sections of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), District Attorneys and Public Defenders. We made significant investments in all of these areas. We did not cut anything. Responsibly funding our government means that we cannot grant the Governor’s huge requests; but we can reasonably and responsibly fund our priorities and government within our means.
The JFC increased funding for the UW System by $57.7 million over the biennium. This brings the state’s total investment in the UW System to $6.35 billion. In addition, all 39,000 UW System employees are getting a 4% raise over the biennium, with a value of $36 million. Tuition revenue is $83.1 million.
While providing this investment, the JFC continued to freeze tuition for the fourth budget in a row! According to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB), if we had not frozen tuition in the 2013-15 state budget and the tuition increase trends had continued over the last five years, tuition at UW Madison would have cost $10,190 more and $7,388 more at UW Platteville (and the other comprehensive campuses) per student. At the local UW Colleges, tuition would have cost $5,220 more and UW Milwaukee would have cost $8,891 more.
If the trend had continued, students and families would have paid annual tuition of $12,786 at UW Madison and $9,270 at UW Platteville for the 2018-19 school year. Instead, tuition at UW Madison is approximately $9,273 and $6,723 at UW Platteville. This is a huge savings for students and families.
In addition to our work on the UW System, we also focused on making sure the Department of Natural Resources is equipped to manage environmental issues such as clean water, pollution prevention and researching chemicals that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently identified as health concerns. We added two scientist positions to study perflueoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are used in firefighting foams.
The DNR environmental quality section of the budget includes the Well Compensation Program, which we provided $400,000, $4 million for dam safety grants, positions within the Division of Environmental Management for water quality and $500,000 annually for Producer-Led Watershed Grants, which have been very successful in communities in the 17th Senate District. We also provided $475,000 for grants for county conservation staff. These investments will have real, efficient impacts on water and environmental quality in Wisconsin.
Finally, for the first time since 1995, public defenders in Wisconsin are getting a pay raise under the JFC plan. We also included funding for Assistant District Attorney positions in 35 more counties including Iowa, Juneau and Monroe counties in the 17th Senate District. This funding is targeted to reduce back logs and workloads in specific counties.
Our work continues in the next several sessions with the Department of Health Services (DHS), the Department of Children & Families (DCF), the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the capital budget. I have appreciated all of the input and ideas you have shared with me and continue to advocate for the unique needs of rural Wisconsin.
As I mentioned last week, it is important to remember that the State Budget must balance all of our priorities – schools, health care, transportation and much, much more. I also seek to balance the funds dedicated to communities all over the state of Wisconsin to ensure that rural Wisconsin’s needs are met. I am committed to balancing all of these priorities while respecting the taxpayer. 
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 any questions or need assistance with any state-related matters.