Capitol Update

by Senator Howard Marklein

March 3, 2023

What Is "Building From Base"?

There is a lot of talk about the state budget these days. Nearly every day, my office is a revolving door of requests and ideas for ways to spend your tax dollars. I am meeting with constituents from all walks of life and people who represent extremely diverse interests. On any given day, I will discuss a dozen different topics from libraries to trails to roads to tourism to schools to taxes to big sports teams to health care to local government.
And in nearly every meeting, I have to explain that the legislature is going to build the state budget from base. What does this mean?
The base budget is our existing foundation. It is the current, ongoing, state spending plan. It includes operating costs and obligations. These operating costs and obligations include personnel, programs that were designed to continue, commitments for buildings, infrastructure and debt.
The base budget does not include short-term projects or things that were passed as one-time spending. If a bill was passed for the last biennium, without an ongoing appropriation, it, effectively, ends when the biennium ends unless we vote to continue it.
Imagine it this way – every two years, the legislature builds a new house on an existing foundation – the base budget. We add bricks for every spending increase, new investment, new program and new idea. Sometimes we don’t use all of the bricks and we send them back to the supplier – you the taxpayer.
The legislature is going to build the next state budget from base. We are starting with the existing foundation, our current level of spending and any ongoing appropriations that we approved in the past. The base budget is the current, bi-partisan budget we passed in 2021 and Governor Tony Evers signed. This is where we will start.
The legislature will decide whether we are going to add new investments, new programs or new ideas to our current levels of spending. We are truly building from where we are right now.
In the next several months, you may hear that the legislature is “cutting” things that Evers “put in the budget”. This is not true. We cannot “cut” anything that is new spending, a new idea or a new program because we are starting from a base budget. We cannot “cut” Evers’ ideas because they do not exist. They are ideas. They are not bricks yet.
Again, in order for something new to be included in the next state budget, it will have to be a brick that is added to the base foundation. If you want us to include a certain brick, please contact me.
Our design plans for the state budget include agency briefings, public hearings and ongoing communications with our constituents and stakeholders. Agency briefings give the legislature an opportunity to talk directly with our state agencies and ask questions. Public hearings provide the general public opportunity to communicate directly with members of the Joint Committee on Finance (JFC) throughout the state.
Finally, I always want to hear from you and hope you will communicate with me. What do you want to see in our next state budget? If you have ideas for bricks, please let me know. If there are bricks you don’t want us to use, I need to know that too. As always, please do not hesitate to connect with me to provide input, ideas or to seek assistance.  Send an email to sen.marklein@legis.wisconsin.gov or call 608-266-0703. I want to hear from you.