Capitol Update

by Senator Howard Marklein

June 7, 2019

Budget Bulletin IV
$156 million for local roads;
$320 million more for State Highways;
$1.6 billion for healthcare access and care;
$44 million for Rural Broadband Expansion Grants

The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) met in Executive Session on June 4 and 6, 2019 and took action on transportation, healthcare, broadband and other topics. We did not cut anything. In fact, we exceeded Governor Evers’ budget request for healthcare in several critical areas and provided a significant infusion of funding to fix our roads. We did all of this without expanding Medicaid or raising taxes.
Transportation - $156 million for local roads, $395 million more without increasing the gas tax.
We added $156 million for local roads through $90 million in one-time funding for the Local Road Improvement Program (LRIP) and investments in General Transportation Aids (GTAs). Towns, counties and municipalities will be able to use this strong infusion of funding to fix roads in the near future. We also increased State Highway Rehabilitation funding by $320 million to reach nearly $1 billion in investment by 2021.
Roads have been my top priority and I started this session with a commitment to put more money into programs that make a real, immediate difference in our communities – where you live. Earlier this week, nine of my colleagues and I rolled out a plan to infuse counties and towns with one-time funding for road construction and maintenance. We negotiated with the Assembly to get it done and as a result $156 million will be going to counties, towns and municipalities to do local road work.
We were able to fund these priorities without raising the gas tax by increasing several fees and reforming processes and requirements for transportation projects. We created $338 million more revenues by increasing the Vehicle Registration Fee by $10 and the Vehicle Title Fee by $95. We also revised the Hybrid Fee so that the DOT will be able to collect this fee which was created in the last budget.
Several legislators have been working hard to design a package of reforms to enable the DOT and local governments to be more efficient and effective when planning and executing road construction projects. These reforms will save taxpayer dollars and reduce the costs associated with road construction.
Healthcare - $1.6 billion for healthcare access and care for those who need it most.
Healthcare is one of the largest components of the state budget. We increased healthcare access and affordability by committing $1.6 billion to expand access and care. The budget includes increases in these key areas:

  • Nursing Home Reimbursement Rates – we increased funding by $30 million over the biennium. This is a 6% increase. We also increased the acuity rate as part of the Medical Assistance cost to continue by 1%. The Governor increased these items by $10.7 million.
  • Personal Care Worker Rates – we increased funding for personal care workers by $37 million over the biennium. We increased the current hourly rate from $16.73 per hour to $18.24 starting July 1, 2019. The Governor increased personal care rates $7 million over the biennium.
  • Direct Caregivers in Family Care – we increased funding by $27 million over the biennium. The Governor’s budget had a $12 million increase. We have more than doubled the base funding for the direct care workforce.
  • Children & Family Aids – We dramatically increased funding for these programs by $30.5 million. These dollars support our counties and social workers who are facing incredible challenges caring for children of families in crisis.
  • Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) funding – We increased funding for qualifying hospitals by $74 million over the biennium. We also increased the maximum payment from $4.6 million to $9.6 million to meet increasing needs.
  • Rural Critical Care Hospital Supplement – We increased funding by $5 million over the biennium and changed the definition to expand the program to more hospitals. In the 17th District, these increases will benefit Gunderson Boscobel Area Hospital and Clinic and Memorial Hospital of Lafayette County.

In addition to the increases in funding for existing programs, we also allocated funding for the Dispatcher Assisted CPR program to train dispatchers to coach callers through CPR and funds for nitrate testing for private wells. Along with other initiatives, we are improving care and the wellbeing of our citizens.
Rural Broadband Expansion - $44 million to expand rural broadband to our communities.
The Rural Broadband Expansion Grant program will receive $44 million over the biennium! This is the most that we have ever invested in rural broadband expansion. In fact, we are putting more funding into rural broadband expansion in one year than we have awarded since the program started five years ago! Since 2014, we have awarded $20,195,200 for rural broadband expansion. This year, we will have $22 million to award immediately!
The Rural Broadband Expansion Grant program has improved access throughout our state. The Public Service Commission (PSC) reports that we have improved access for 75,554 homes and 4,395 businesses since the program started in 2014. With this huge infusion of funding, I am optimistic that we will make even greater strides over the next two years.
As we near the conclusion of the JFC’s work on the state budget, we are working hard to balance all of our priorities. I am encouraged by the fact that we have consistently been able to increase funding for important priorities without raising taxes and spending beyond our means.

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.

Marklein represents the 17th Senate District, which includes all or parts Grant, Green, Iowa, Juneau, Lafayette, Monroe, Richland, Sauk and Vernon counties. Marklein serves on the legislature’s budget-writing Joint Finance Committee and is Chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Revenue & Financial Institutions.