Capitol Update

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Summarizing the State Budget
The Wisconsin Legislature passed the 2015-2017 biennial budget and it is now bound for Governor Scott Walker’s review, veto pen and signature. As a member of the Joint Finance Committee (JFC), I have spent the last six months studying the details, making tough decisions and advocating for the needs of the 17th Senate District and the people of Wisconsin.

While I know not all of our actions were popular, I believe that we made fair decisions based on our resources, projected revenues and all of the needs of the State of Wisconsin over the next biennium.

The State Budget process is not easy. I didn’t expect it to be. Every resident of our state has their own view of our priorities and it is a challenge to fairly allocate and manage our resources to answer the diverse voices in our state.

When it is all said and done, I am proud of our work. This budget has less bonding (borrowing) than any budget in the last three decades. We froze property taxes and University System tuition. We restored funding for K-12 education and allocated an additional $100 per pupil in the second year of the biennium. Wisconsin has now seen three budgets in a row that do not increase our property or income taxes!

In addition to these major elements, following are other positive things we were able to do in this budget:

Transportation - We reduced bonding from $1.3 billion to $500 million. The core of the Zoo Interchange project in Milwaukee will be completed, but the third phase will be delayed. We also decided that an additional $350 million in bonding could be available at the discretion of the JFC.

Especially important for the 17th Senate District this summer – we changed vehicle registration requirements to allow vintage and antique tractors to travel on highways to participate in parades and tractor club events and maintained funding for the program to remove deer roadkill from WI roadways.

Education – We added $200 million to K-12 education funding, restored the $150 per pupil aid and added $100 more per pupil in the second year. More than $10.6 billion is invested into public education over the next biennium.

Especially important for the rural schools of the 17th Senate District – we added an additional $8.4 million over the biennium to Sparsity Aid (qualifying districts would need an enrollment of less than 725 pupils and a population density of less than 10 pupils per square mile). We also added an additional $5 million over the biennium to High Cost Transportation Aid (qualifying districts would need a population density of less than 50 pupils per square mile and transportation costs greater than 150% of the state average).
We expanded the school choice program statewide to provide parents with choices where they are needed and revised the program so that education funding follows the child. We gave school districts the opportunity to employ and license individuals with a technical background to teach technical education courses.

Healthcare – We maintained the SeniorCare program. We kept Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs) local. We gave Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) the opportunity to upgrade and be a part of a new, regional system of long term care which maintains our existing system while we required the Department of Health Services (DHS) to develop a plan to address the needs of our aging population with stakeholder input.

We allocated an extra ombudsman for the Board on Aging & Long Term Care for the State Veterans Home. We added $100,000 to the Wisconsin Well Woman Program for cervical and cancer screenings. We required a study and presentation related to consolidating county and community mental health programs.

We allocated $250,000 for county government to implement anti-fraud measures for entitlement programs and created a program for drug testing public benefit recipients.

Especially important for rural health – we provided a $40,000 grant for advanced life support training to doctors, physician’s assistants, nurse practitioners, registered nurses and paramedics in rural hospitals and clinics and we expanded Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) funding which is intended to provide supplemental reimbursement for hospitals that serve relatively high numbers of medical assistance recipients and uninsured, low-income patients. Most of the hospitals in the 17th Senate District qualify for DSH funding.

Economic Development – We reinvested $250,000 from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) into a revolving loan program for Prosperity Southwest WI to serve Grant, Lafayette, Green, Richland and Crawford counties and redirected $12 million to be invested in economic development in legislative initiatives rather than WEDC programs.

Public Safety – We added a grant for $50,000 per year for the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department to hire an officer dedicated to drug law enforcement. We added $630,000 for four positions in the Wisconsin Attorney General’s office to conduct officer involved incident investigations. We allocated an additional $100,000 for the sexual assault victim services grant program.

Natural Resources & Agriculture – We reinstated the Stewardship Program and created a sustainable plan in which all sale of Department of Natural Resources (DNR) land would have a 50/50 split with funds going to Stewardship Program debt service and the acquisition of new land. The DNR currently has 10,000 acres for sale!

I authored a motion for the state parks account that would improve the financial condition of the state park system. We also required the DNR to study ways for the state parks to increase revenue and manage resources for continued sustainability. We maintained the roles of the Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection (DATCP) and Natural Resources Boards.

Especially important for the 17th Senate District, we reinstated the Private Onsite Wastewater Treatment System (POWTS) grant program through the Wisconsin Fund.

Taxes – My goals in leading the discussion of the tax elements of the budget were fairness and simplification. We increased the standard deduction for married filers to reduce the marriage penalty. This amounted to a $21 million tax cut statewide with $19 million of relief going to couples who make less than $100k per year! This tax cut impacts thousands of middle-class families in our state.

We also federalized the deduction for teacher school supplies. In addition, we created the statewide Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act that allows a family member of someone with special needs to create a tax-free account for their loved one with special needs for future expenses.

University of Wisconsin System – We restored $50 million of the original $300 million cut to the university system. We froze tuition for two years. We granted flexibilities to the UW System for procurement while maintaining current UW System structure. For the 17th District directly – we gave UW-Platteville the ability to negotiate lease agreements which is estimated to save the campus $250,000 per year and approved $15 million for the Williams Fieldhouse addition.

Especially important for the 17th Senate District – We invested funds to establish the Frank Lloyd Wright Heritage Trail that will run from Racine to Richland Center in honor of Frank Lloyd Wright. We allocated $6 million over the next four years from the Universal Service Fund (USF) for broadband expansion grants for local communities and maintained current law for the Local Government Property Insurance Fund (LGPIF) with a directive to study already completed. We added an $80,000 grant to Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for abused and neglected children that need representation in court. We reversed the reorganization of assessment in our state and kept it local.

We restored $1.6 million in funding and 8.6 positions for the Educational Communications Board for Wisconsin Public Television (WPT) and Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR).

The Bucks Arena – this item was removed from the budget and will be debated as a separate piece of legislation. I continue to study the proposal, ask questions and seek input from the residents of the 17th Senate District. For more information, please visit http://legis.wisconsin.gov/senate/17/marklein/media/1093/61215-bucks-arena-deal.pdf to read more about my analysis of the Bucks Arena proposal.

As my first budget as a member of the JFC, I have a much better understanding of the process, opportunities and intricacies that go into crafting the state budget. I appreciated all of the input, ideas and concerns expressed by the residents of the 17th Senate District and was proud to be able to bring one of the Spring Budget Hearings to our district for the first time in decades.

Over the next several weeks, I intend to dig deeper into several areas of the budget and provide an analysis with more in-depth detail. Overall, I am proud of our work and will continue to advocate for the unique needs and priorities of the 17th Senate District as we prepare for the fall legislative session that begins in September.

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.


Amendment to Remove Open Records Law Changes from the Budget
I released the following statement earlier this week regarding the amendment that I drafted to remove the Open Records Law changes from the budget:

“I am pleased to report that I have authored an amendment to remove changes to the Open Records law that became part of the state budget last week. This amendment will be presented on the floor the Senate as we take up the full budget for a vote in the Senate.

I had to make a very difficult choice last week. I had to choose whether to abandon all of the good parts of the 999 motion by voting against it – or vote for it and then work to seek an amendment to withdraw this element individually without undoing all of the good things that we accomplished.

This decision did not come easy. I supported many good parts of the overall Motion 999. Several of these items were changes made to correct and clarify action taken by the JFC earlier this spring after we heard from constituents throughout our state.

I believe in open and transparent government and have always responded to Open Records Requests quickly and thoroughly. It was never my intention to change any sort of internal office policy on records that can be requested from my office. I remain committed to transparency in all business that is conducted on behalf of my constituents.”

This amendment also removed the language that was included in the budget to make changes to the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS).

In the District


Knee-High by the Fourth of July!
There is an old saying that says corn crops yield a full harvest if they are “knee-high by the Fourth of July.” I took this photo of the corn on our farm on July 4th. The corn was definitely higher than the “knee-high by the Fourth of July,” saying! Let’s pray for continued good weather….it is still a long time before the crop is in the bin!

*Senator Marklein on his farm on the Fourth of July weekend


Fourth of July Celebrations
I had a great time this past weekend celebrating the Fourth of July out and about in the district. I started the day off speaking at the Platteville Veterans Honor Roll Program honoring World War II and Korean War Veterans. Thank you for having me, it was a great honor!

*Senator Marklein at the Platteville Veterans Honor Roll Program


I also walked in the Boscobel and Wiota Fourth of July Parades! It was great to see so many smiling faces and I look forward to more parades this summer! We couldn’t have asked for better weather! I hope everyone had a great Fourth of July, weekend!

Senator Marklein at the Boscobel Fourth of July Parade


Helpful Information


Unemployment Fund in the Black
Wisconsin’s Unemployment Insurance Program was enacted in 1932 and was the first of its kind in the United States. The program temporarily provides benefits to replace a portion of wages lost when an individual becomes unemployed. The program is run by the Department of Workforce Development and is reflected in the Unemployment Reserve Fund. Each and every employer in our state pays taxes toward the Unemployment Reserve Fund.

In 2010 Wisconsin had a deficit in the Reserve Fund of over $1 billion. The fund has steadily improved and now sits at its first positive balance since 2009. Due to reforms enacted over several years and decreases in unemployment the Reserve Fund is now on better financial footing and employers will begin to see savings.

*Source: Department of Workforce Development



*Senator Marklein is pleased to provide this legislative E-Update to the constituents of the 17th State Senate District. Please feel free to share this update with other interested citizens and taxpayers. You are receiving this update because you have either subscribed or contacted Senator Marklein directly.

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State Capitol - Room 8 South - Post Office Box 7882 - Madison, Wisconsin 53707 - Phone: (608) 266-0703

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