PDF of Column


Capitol Update
By Senator Howard Marklein
March 1, 2019

Summary of the Governor's Budget Message


Governor Tony Evers presented his Budget Message to the State Legislature the evening of Thursday, February 28, 2019.
The Governor’s budget message appeared to be a wish list of things for his donors and supporters in Milwaukee and Madison. He talked about spending $84 billion, which is nearly $9 billion more than our last budget! I’m not sure where he accounts for an 11% increase in spending or where those dollars come from.  The only revenue increase he talked about in his speech is increasing the gas tax and the Medicaid expansion. Neither of these new revenue streams get even close to $9 billion more.
While there are some ideas I support and plan to champion in the budget such as continuing the UW tuition freeze, funding for rural broadband, directing more funds to rural roads, water quality programs and rural school funding, I am not sure that we are on the same page for ‘how’ to accomplish these goals.
There are several formulas and processes that must be improved if we are going to dedicate more dollars to roads and schools. I did not hear this level of detail. As a member of the Joint Finance Committee, the details matter to me and I will be working hard to understand them and improve our approach to these areas.
Following is a brief summary of the things I heard in the Governor’s Budget Message.  Please note that this is not intended to be a summary of the budget in full. The Budget Bill is 592 pages and will be summarized by the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) over the next month. Search for Senate Bill (SB) 59 and Assembly Bill (AB) 56 on www.legis.wisconsin.gov to read the full bill.
Schools – The Governor has proposed $1.4 billion in new spending on schools. He also seeks to cap Charter Schools and the School Voucher program.
Higher Education – The Governor has proposed increasing funding for Wisconsin’s Technical Colleges by $18 million and $150 million for the UW system. He proposes to keep the Tuition Freeze, which I have also supported over the last six years.
Roads – While I agree with the Governor that we need to find a long-term solution for transportation funding, his plan proposes to dedicate $600 million in new revenue.  He proposes raising the gas tax by $.08 per gallon.
Broadband – The Governor proposes spending $78 million on Rural Broadband Expansion Grants over the next two years. As a legislator who has dedicated the most time to this issue, I am interested in the details of this plan. We need to make sure that the dollars are going to the truly unserved and underserved communities.
Unfortunately, once again I did not hear much about rural Wisconsin from Governor Evers. I would argue that most of his budget address focused on the wish list of his biggest supporters and donors in Madison and Milwaukee. I hope that when I dig into the budget in more detail, I find more ideas for ways to improve life in rural Wisconsin.
Following the address, the budget was officially delivered to the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee (JFC). It is now being deeply analyzed by the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) before their analysis is shared with the JFC.
The JFC will be meeting with each of the state agencies to discuss their portion of the state budget beginning in April. We will hold a number of public hearings around the state for citizens to share their thoughts, ideas and concerns before we deliberate as a committee.
I am also holding a number of listening sessions in the 17th Senate District over the next two weeks. Please visit my website for more information.
Our goal is to draft a legislative version of the state budget and move it through the legislative process before the fiscal year ends on June 30, 2019. As a member of the JFC, I have been looking forward to receiving the Governor’s budget so that we can get to work on plans for the future of Wisconsin.
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.