Capitol Update

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Joint Finance Committee

Over the last two weeks, the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee (JFC) started voting on specific items in Governor Scott Walker’s budget proposal. To date, the committee has saved taxpayers $9.7 million in general purpose revenue (GPR) and $19.5 million overall. We have reduced 26 positions. We learned this week that the Transportation Fund balance has improved by $73.5 million.

The JFC, met on Friday, April 17, 2015 and Wednesday, April 22, 2015. During these two days, the following actions were taken:

Local Property Insurance Fund – The Governor’s original proposal would end the program for local governments to purchase property insurance through the state. Our motion delayed the elimination of this fund for two years so that local units of government will have time to find alternative insurance and plan for potential increases in costs, which may average as much as 45%. The current program is operating with a multi-million dollar deficit and has been mismanaged, creating a large liability for the state. (4/17/15)
Anti-Fraud Support for Entitlement Programs – Added $250,000 to assist county-level governments to implement anti-fraud measures for entitlement programs such as FoodShare. It is estimated that the state and federal government will recover $18 for every dollar invested in fraud investigation of the entitlement programs. (4/17/15)
Fish & Wildlife Account – I supported a motion to require the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to study and address the imbalances in the Fish & Wildlife account. This account, which is funded by fees from hunting and fishing licenses, is operating at a $3.5 million deficit due to a declining number of hunters. (4/22/15)
Hunting & Fishing License Fees – No changes were made. (4/22/15)
Vintage & Antique Tractors – I authored a motion to change the vehicle registration requirement for vintage and antique tractors so that they may travel on state highways to participate in parades and tractor club events. Many vintage tractors are retired from agricultural service, but continue to be a valuable historical attraction throughout our state. Current law makes it illegal to drive these tractors on state highways. This change in vehicle registration requirements protects owners of these vehicles from illegally operating on their way to share agricultural history. We can continue to see Allis Chalmers, Minneapolis Molines, Farmalls, John Deere, Oliver, or any other favorite tractor in parades.(4/22/15)
Lower Wisconsin State Riverway – Oversight of this organization was moved from the Department of Tourism to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) but the organization will maintain budget autonomy. (4/22/15)
Kickapoo Valley Reserve – No changes were made. (4/22/15)
Military Commercial Drivers’ License – Waived the fee for this license. (4/22/15)
Car-Deer Kills – Funding was maintained for the program to remove deer roadkill from Wisconsin roadways. However, the source of the funding was changed and the DNR is now required to report on the program’s effectiveness and offer recommendations. I have some concerns over the mismanagement of the funds and the cost per deer collected throughout the counties. The following table includes the counties in the 17th Senate District as well as other counties throughout the state as a comparison. (4/22/15)


Car-Killed Deer Collected, Cost by County and Cost per Deer for Fiscal Years 2013-14


County Deer Collected Cost Cost per Deer
Brookfield, City of 76 $2,000 $26.31
Douglas 19 $10,200 $536.84
Grant 433 $9,800 $22.63
Green 225 $7,300 $32.44
Iowa 151 $6,900 $45.69
Juneau 379 $3,700 $9.76
Lafayette 110 $6,100 $55.45
Lincoln 97 $6,300 $64.95
Monroe 545 $8,100 $14.86
Richland 236 $5,900 $25.00
Sauk 500 $8,600 $17.20
Vernon 417 $10,300 $24.70
Waukesha 1,098 $24,000 $21.85
Winnebago 151 $11,900 $78.80

*Source: Legislative Fiscal Bureau

For an Executive Summary of the budget, as well as full details, please visit: http://legis.wisconsin.gov/lfb/publications/budget/2015-17 Budget/Pages/publications.aspx

Click here for a printable version of this update.


Senate Session
This week, the State Senate was in session. The following bills are bills that I supported and were passed in the Senate:

Senate Bill 80 & Assembly Bill 122
Utility Vehicle Weight Exemptions

Current law enables local authorities to establish weight limits on roads during different seasons to prevent damage and deterioration to the roadway. For example, during spring months, weight limits are imposed because road surfaces and foundations are softer than in the winter and summer, making them more susceptible to damage.

SB 80 and AB 122 create an exception to weight limitations for vehicles used by public utilities and telecommunication providers when they are responding to an emergency or service interruption.
I supported this proposal because it removes obstacles for rapid response to repair power outages in our communities. Heat, light, power and water are necessary and important to the health and well-being of the people of Wisconsin.

Senate Bill 59 & Assembly Bill 56

 University of Wisconsin (UW) System Remedial Coursework

Currently, the UW System tracks students who need remedial coursework before enrolling in college-level classes. The most common remediation necessary is in English and mathematics. Remediation extends the time and expense for attending college.

According the UW Board of Regents, 1 in 5 students enrolling within the UW System requires remedial classes in math or English. UW-Platteville reports that 38% of students require remedial classes in math.

This bill requires the UW System to identify high schools from which more than six students are required to take remedial courses. It requires a report to the legislature and the State Superintendent, whom will circulate the data to all state school boards. In order to protect the identity of individual students, the UW System is prohibited from disclosing specific names. The general identification of high schools and reporting is intended to provide data so that we can address trends in remediation and improve the aptitude of students from specific high schools to increase college-level readiness.


In the District

Wisconsin Local Employment and Unemployment Estimates
The Department of Workforce Development (DWD) released the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) estimates of unemployment and employment statistics for metro areas, major cities and counties in Wisconsin. The estimates include revisions for February 2015 and preliminary estimates for March 2015.

The following table shows the local unemployment rates from March 2014 and March 2015 for the counties in our district.

County Mar-15 RATE Mar-14 RATE
Grant 5.2 6.2
Green 4.8 5.9
Iowa 5.9 7.1
Juneau 6.6 8.6
Lafayette 4.6 5.7
Monroe 5.5 6.7
Richland 5.4 6.8
Sauk 5.3 6.6
Vernon 5.3 6.4

*Source: Department of Workforce Development



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