Capitol Update

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Joint Finance Committee
Increasing the funding for K-12 education has been my top priority during budget deliberations this spring and I am proud to announce that the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) restored funding for $150 per pupil in the first year of the biennium and added an extra $100 per pupil in the second year for a total of $200 million in additional investment. Overall, $10.6 billion of the state budget is dedicated to funding for public schools. This investment accounts for 63% of all school-related spending statewide.

In addition to general school investment increases, the JFC expanded the school choice program statewide to provide parents with choices and creates a program in which funding follows the child.

As the Senator for the 17th Senate District, I had concerns about the impact of statewide school choice on our rural school districts. I did not want our local schools to suffer financially for issues in urban school districts.

The program created in this budget establishes a funding structure in which the funds for children follow them to a private school from their district of residence. In other words, the child’s district of residence pays for the voucher. Funding for school choice is not distributed across all of the school districts statewide.

Another provision of the statewide school choice expansion requires participating private schools to perform an annual financial audit and requires that an independent auditor must also review any concerns raised in the private school’s management letter. This requirement will encourage private schools to seriously consider whether participation in the school choice program aligns with their goals and priorities.

As promised, the JFC restored the SeniorCare program in the state budget. I supported our efforts to maintain this program that has been very helpful to many residents of the 17th Senate District.

I was also proud to support a motion to reinvest $250,000 into a revolving loan program for Prosperity Southwest Wisconsin, which grows business in Grant, Lafayette, Green, Richland and Crawford counties. These funds were originally allocated to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), but due to the failures of the WEDC, we redirected funds already intended for revolving loans to a local organization with proven success.

The Grant County Economic Development Corporation (GCEDC), led by Ron Brisbois, has successfully managed 40 revolving loans and has grown their internal loan program from $160,000 to $1.3 million over the last 16 years. The GCEDC requested these funds on behalf of Prosperity Southwest Wisconsin and will work with their surrounding counties to seek opportunities to invest in business and grow jobs.

Also related to economic development, the JFC created a drug testing and treatment program for citizens who receive public benefits and unemployment compensation. Several local employers have shared frustrations that they are actively hiring workers, but that many applicants can’t pass a drug test as a condition of employment. Addiction is becoming a barrier to reentering the workforce!

The intent of this provision of the budget is to help our citizens to overcome addiction and destructive behaviors in order to get back to work and contribute to our society. Public benefits such as FoodShare and Unemployment are meant to provide a safety net to help Wisconsinites through tough times. They are not meant to replace a paycheck. We need to do everything we can to support and encourage our citizens to return to gainful employment.

For more information and to connect with me, visit my website http://legis.wisconsin.gov/senate/17/marklein and do not hesitate to call 800-978-8008 if you have input, ideas or need assistance with any state-related matters.

In the District

Belmont Lions Club 60th Anniversary!
Earlier this month, the Belmont Lions Club celebrated the 60th Anniversary of their Charter (February 9, 1955). The Belmont Lions Club was sponsored by the Shullsburg Lion Club and has had many decades of service to the Belmont Community and surrounding areas. I was pleased to have been asked to create a proclamation for this event and congratulate them on their dedication to the community.

*Seated (L to R): Lion President MJ Dachelet, Lion Bev Pelton, and Lion Lee Pelton.
Back (L to R): Lion Board Member Derek Dachelet, Lion Secretary Julie Abing, Lion 2nd VP Jeff Schaetz, Lion Ned Keyes, Past Lion President Jim Voigts, and Lion Treasurer Cheryl Cushman.


Helpful Information

University of Wisconsin System
A few years ago, my fellow CPAs in the State Assembly and I discovered a fund balance in the UW System of around $1 billion. At the same time, campuses were raising tuition and fees on students while they maintained a large, unrestricted reserve.

At the time, I was a member of the Legislative Joint Audit Committee. We then directed the UW System Board of Regents to prepare and approve a plan to address the fund balances and make the balances more transparent. In a report released late last year, UW System detailed the plan on how to address specific expenses, pay for emergencies, and funds to be used at the discretion of the individual chancellors.

Three years later, I have again requested that the UW System provide me their most recent balance sheet that includes the cash reserves. It should be noted that the UW has had a tuition freeze the past two years. The following table summarizes the most recent data regarding the tuition account balances, after two years of tuition freezes:

 UW Student Fees –March 31

UW Campus 2013 2014 2015
UW-Colleges $24,698,977 $32,120,455 $31,238,784
UW-Eau Claire 38,402,782 37,096,516 32,265,153
UW-Extension 1,336,696 2,567,769 9,737,351
UW-Green Bay 19,603,411 15,530,570 16,650,338
UW-La Crosse 45,164,011 47,389,821 45,507,501
UW-Madison 287,021,990 286,130,646 245,005,300
UW-Milwaukee 121,871,978 110,143,703 83,369,075
UW-Oshkosh 32,193,388 35,595,976 32,685,669
UW-Parkside 13,902,115 13,765,703 18,047,459
UW-Platteville 20,790,006 28,008,286 25,433,694
UW-River Falls 24,364,858 20,365,948 22,391,163
UW-Stevens Point 34,776,896 35,913,737 28,081,034
UW-Stout 18,590,051 20,456,668 24,985,664
UW-Superior 7,975,381 8,141,400 6,829,746
UW-Systemwide 140,758,821 70,742,880 73,225,442
UW-Whitewater 65,002,477 57,172,563 51,639,872
Total $896,453,838 $821,142,641 $720,493,690

*Source: UW System


The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) is expected to act on the University of Wisconsin Budget next week.


Memorial Day
As many of us have the day off on Monday, let us not forget those who have sacrificed their lives for the freedom we enjoy today. I am especially grateful to those from the 17th Senate District that have given the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty. Drive safely and remember those that have given their lives for your freedom.


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