By Senator Howard Marklein
June 2, 2017
Budget Bulletin IV: Natural Resources, Library Aids and Workforce Development Among Topics Covered This Week
The Joint Finance Committee (JFC), on which I serve, met once this week due to the holiday weekend. But our one day of Executive Session business was very productive. We considered 16 different departments or divisions and addressed topics ranging from natural resources to libraries.
Before I jump into the summary of our actions this week, I would like to address a question that was asked by a reader related to spending versus saving as we work through the state budget. The summaries I present to you highlight interesting programs and initiatives that make a difference in the lives of the people in the 17th District, but I have neglected to tell you about the reductions, savings, reorganizations and changes that make it possible to increase funding and create new programs in other areas.
Overall, we have taken hundreds of votes that have – to date – saved the state at least $125 million with nearly $50 million from changes to the Medicaid program alone. Some of these votes are big changes while others are smaller decisions that add up to big money. We are always looking for ways to reduce the tax burden, but we also seek ways to serve the people of our state. It is a careful balance and a very deliberate process.
Again, the “spending” and funding I have highlighted in these columns reports on topics that are important to the people I represent. Please rest assured that I am always conscious of how they are paid for, where we are realizing savings and the overall balance of our budget.
Following is a bulletin highlighting several issues we discussed to give you an inside view of our work on your behalf. For a details follow this link: http://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2017/committees/joint/1680
Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Magazine – We restored funding for the DNR Magazine but have changed it to quarterly publication with a more robust online presence.
State Park Self-Sustainability – I authored a motion to provide additional tools and flexibility for the DNR to continue moving toward self-sustainability for the state park system. These tools include:
- Allow DNR the option to invest $1 million each year of the biennium from the State Parks Account for maintenance and improvement projects such as repairing facilities, replacing signage, replacing drinking fountains and upgrading non-electric sites to electricity.
- Lift the state-wide cap for electrical sites from 30% to 35% of campsites statewide.
- Increase the park sticker fee by $5 for residents and non-residents.
- Create a $5 surcharge for electrical sites at popular parks.
- Increase the range up to $10 for nightly camping fees at the Secretary’s discretion.
ATV Safety Enhancement Grant – Earlier this session, I authored SB 124 to restore funding to the ATV Safety Enhancement Grant program that provides funding for groups that promote the safe operation of ATVs. The funding comes from the conservation fund, which is meant to support groups like these. During the 2015-2016 budget, this allocation was deleted. The JFC took the language of SB 124 and folded it into this budget to restore the funding.
Car-Killed Deer Program – The JFC transferred the Car-Killed Deer program from the DNR to the Department of Transportation (DOT) and deleted the funding to make the car-killed deer clean-up responsibility part of highway maintenance.
Library Aids and TEACH Funding – I authored a motion to transfer $1.5 million out of a surplus in a Federal reimbursement account to increase aids to local libraries. The motion also transferred $6 million from the same surplus and changed some criteria to expand the Technology for Educational Achievement (TEACH) program that provides grants to schools for information technology (IT) infrastructure and for training teachers on the use of educational technology.
Workforce Development Training Grants – We expanded several workforce training grant programs for technical education, technical education equipment and teacher recruitment and development.
I expect the JFC to meet at least four more times this month before completing our work on the state budget. We have some large issues to tackle such as education, transportation and taxes. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.
To view our agenda for the next week, please visit our committee schedule. http://committeeschedule.legis.wisconsin.gov/?committeeID=1680&viewType=List&filter=Upcoming
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.