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Yesterday, the Joint Committee on Finance (JFC) finished budget deliberations. The budget will now be sent to the Assembly and Senate for further action. The budget passed along party lines, with Republicans voting for, and Democrats voting against. 

As we move forward with the budget process, I am optimistic that Republicans in the Senate and Assembly will join Democrats in fighting for vital issues in the budget, such as including the Medicaid Expansion, putting money back into special education funding, and improving the transportation proposal. 

Below you will find the script for this week's Democratic radio address, where I speak on what could have been with the People's Budget, the JFC Democrats' final statement on the passage, and a summary of issues in the budget. 

Jon Erpenbach
Wisconsin State Senate, District 27




Senator Erpenbach: Wisconsinites Deserve the People’s Budget 

Governor Tony Evers wanted a budget that gives the next generation a legacy to be proud of. He went around the state, listened to people, and then developed a responsible, balanced proposal based on what he heard from Wisconsinites. He invested in our health care, classrooms, and local roads, and he made good on his promise to improve access to clean drinking water.  

The People’s Budget is a sustainable investment in our future and would have made great strides towards undoing years of damage caused by Republican politicians.

Day after day in Joint Finance, the GOP took the fully-funded and sustainable plans put forth by Democrats and slashed, removed, or destabilized important programs. The number one example has been their refusal to expand Medicaid. There is overwhelming public support to accept the $1.6 billion in federal funding that would save Wisconsin taxpayers $325 million state dollars. Unfortunately Republicans ignored the will of the people and opted for a plan that covers fewer people at a higher price tag.

This budget comes down to priorities. Democrats believe that we should be taking care of our kids, finding a long-term solution for our transportation budget, and expanding opportunities for everyone in our state. On the other hand, Republicans have made it clear that they want to put massive and ineffective tax breaks for the wealthy before our roads, schools, and health care.

As we wrap up Joint Finance budget deliberations, it is important for Wisconsinites to remember what could have been with Governor Evers’ budget. Wisconsin deserves better than what Republicans have put forward. Wisconsin deserves a budget that works for everyone. The People’s Budget.


Listen to statement here. 


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On Last Day of Budget Deliberations, JFC Democrats Lament Missed Opportunities

GOP Continues to ignore the will of Wisconsin voters


(MADISON)- Today marks the last day of Joint Finance Committee (JFC) budget deliberations. Instead of sitting down and working with Governor Tony Evers and legislative Democrats, Republicans prioritized politics over people.


The long list of missed opportunities began on day one with the rejection of billions of federal dollars to invest in the health of all Wisconsinites.  Instead of expanding Medicaid, Republicans introduced their own double-tax proposal, which spends $324 million more state tax dollars, and rejects returning home $1.2 billion in federal tax dollars. As a result, Wisconsinites’ hard-earned federal tax dollars will now be sent to California and Illinois and all of the other states that put smart fiscal policy before partisan politics.  


“For our communities, this is not a partisan issue,” said Senator Erpenbach (D-West Point). “With the Medicaid Expansion, Wisconsin would be able to provide more affordable, quality coverage to 82,000 Wisconsinites, while lowering the cost of insurance premiums for everyone in the state. Republicans have rejected dollars that could have been reinvested to work towards eliminating health disparities and improving the health and well-being of Wisconsinites at every stage of life, in order to send a political message.”


After listening to the people of our state, Governor Evers’ proposal made historic investments in our K-12 public schools.  JFC Republicans cut nearly $1 billion from Governor Evers’ school budget. Most grievously, after 10 years without an increase, Republican politicians slashed the special education funding proposal by 83%.  Schools throughout Wisconsin are having to transfer approximately $1 billion from their general school aids each year to meet their students’ special education needs because of a decade of flat funding. 


“As legislators, we didn’t get elected to choose which children get to thrive and which do not,” said Senator Johnson (D-Milwaukee). “Republicans cutting 84% of Governor Evers’ special education budget needlessly picks winners and losers and goes against what the people of Wisconsin asked of us.”


Instead of proposing a long-term solution to fix our crumbling roads, Republican politicians once again adopt a temporary, short term fix.  In contrast, Governor Evers proposed a long-term, sustainable plan to fund our public transportation system well into the future, and require heavy trucks and out-of-state visitors to share the costs.  By forcing Wisconsin drivers to foot the entire bill with record fee hikes, Republicans let out-of-state drivers off the hook.


“Our roads, whether they be urban or rural, are in need of repair. The State knows this and has studied it multiple times,” said Representative Goyke (D-Milwaukee). After years of neglect by Republicans, Governor Evers proposed a responsible transportation budget for everyone. Legislative Republicans rejected his plan and are forcing Wisconsin taxpayers to foot the entire bill to repair our roads with out-of-state drivers not paying their fair share. Under their plan Wisconsin pays and Illinois gets their own free ‘WI-Pass.’”


Republicans added to their embarrassing environmental track record by stripping out key clean water proposals by Governor Evers. When infants are getting sick from excessive nitrates in our water, families have liquid manure coming out of their faucets, and nearly one-half of approximately 1.7 million private wells do not meet acceptable health standards, it is time to act. Instead, Republicans cut 43 million dollars from Governor Evers’ year of clean drinking water programs and failed to expand eligibility for the well compensation program, which helps families remediate contaminated wells.  


“Clean water should not be a partisan issue, yet once again Republicans took the ‘People’s Budget’ and turned it into the ‘Politicians Budget,’” said Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison). “Instead of putting the health and lives of our communities first, Republicans failed to make the needed investments in providing and protecting clean drinking water to every Wisconsin home. It’s about priorities, and families should be able to drink water from their tap without fear of PFAS, nitrates, lead, or arsenic, no matter their zip code.”


The GOP budget will now go to the full legislature where its future is uncertain given opposition within their own party.




Issue summaries from the JFC budget deliberations on the 2019-21 budget:


Environmental Improvement Fund

The committee unanimously approved Governor Evers' budget requests for clean water initiatives within the Environmental Improvement Fund. This includes additional investments of $13.5 million for the clean water fund program and $3.5 million for the safe drinking water loan program. The committee also unanimously extended the maximum loan term for the safe drinking water loan program from 20 years to 30 years, allowing some municipalities to potentially have lower loan payments on major clean water projects.

JFC Democrats attempted to move to re-include for consideration bonding authority for lead service line replacement, an item that was removed from budget consideration at the May 9 JFC meeting. The Democrats’ motion included $35 million in bonding authority, down from the $40 million in the Governor’s budget request. Co-Chair Nygren ruled the item out of order and not able to be considered because it had already been removed from consideration by the committee. Democrats moved to appeal the ruling of the Chair, but the motion to appeal was defeated by a party line vote.


Administration - General Agency Provisions

Democrats on the committee moved to include the governor’s budget request for one-time funding of $1 million in GPR for activities, outreach and preparation related to the 2020 U.S. decennial census. This level of funding to prepare for the census would have made Wisconsin near the middle of the pack on its per capita spending for 2020 census activities. However, the motion failed on a party line vote and no action was taken on funding for 2020 census activities in Wisconsin.


Administration - Housing and Energy

JFC Democrats moved to include funding for housing assistance and homeless prevention initiatives included in Governor Evers’ budget. This motion was rejected on a party line vote. Republicans on the committee introduced a motion to reject Governor Evers’ position increases and adopt only the fiscal recommendations in the statewide action plan presented by the Interagency Council on Homelessness in November 2018, but with the caveat that the money be set aside for after several policy proposals make their way through the legislative process. That motion was adopted along party lines.



Democrats on the committee introduced motions to accept the governor’s budget requests for tourism, including increases in statewide marketing efforts, video production staff and an office of outdoor recreation. Democrats argued during debate that the next couple of years are a unique opportunity for the state to take advantage of major events and exposure, and that JFC should fully fund the governor’s request to accomplish that. Republicans rejected Governor Evers’ budget requests and passed a motion to provide an inflationary GPR increase for marketing funding, placing that funding in the JFC supplemental appropriation.


Budget Management and Compensation Reserves

Democrats on the committee introduced a motion to accept Governor Evers’ recommendations to increase state and UW system employee pay by 2% each year of the biennium, increase the compensation reserves for market wage and parity adjustments by $12 million and set a non-UW state employee minimum wage of $15/hour. The Democrats’ motion failed, and Republicans introduced a motion to accept the 2% pay increase for all state employees, but increased the compensation reserves by only $4 million for the biennium and took no action to raise the minimum wage for state employees to $15/hour. The motion passed on party lines.


Democrats introduced an omnibus motion that included several items from the papers for the Department of Corrections, but also encompassed the Governor’s recommendations for a new pay progression plan system to increase hourly pay for new and existing correctional and protective service positions at the Departments of Corrections and Health Services. Republicans rejected the Democrats’ omnibus, and passed their own motion to increase pay for these positions by $1.66/hour for current employees and $2/hour for new employees, beginning in January 2020.


Finally, the committee unanimously passed a motion to increase hourly pay for DOJ State Crime Lab employees.



The Democrats’ omnibus also included increased funding for various programs and proposals within the Department of Corrections, including for: overtime hours for corrections employees, staffing and operation for new buildings and units, technical mobile labs, the Windows to Work program, expansion of Opening Avenues to Reentry Success (OARS) program and sex offender tracking. The omnibus was rejected along party lines. Republicans introduced their own Corrections omnibus. It included funding increases at a lower rate than Democrats for: overtime funding, new building and unit operations and staffing, Windows to Work, OARS, and sex offender tracking. The Republican omnibus motion passed along party lines.


Public Instruction

Democrats on the committee introduced an omnibus motion encompassing the Governor’s education budget. The motion included an additional $1.4 billion in K-12 education funding, including an additional $606 million for special education, and two-thirds funding for public education by the state. The motion would increase per pupil revenue limits by $200 in 2019-20 and $204 in 2020-21, with increases indexed thereafter. Chair Nygren asked that Democrats either remove items 72-92 (items removed from budgetary consideration on May 9) from the motion, or he would rule the entire motion out of order. Democrats argued that to remove items is undermining the education package as a whole, and that they would not do so, and the Chair ruled the omnibus out of order and not properly before the committee.


Republicans introduced their own omnibus motion to fund education at significantly lower rates than Democrats. Their motion included a $500 million total increase, $900 million less than Democrats. The Republicans’ omnibus included a $97 million increase for special education, over a half billion less than what Democrats proposed. Democrats introduced an amendment to the Republicans’ omnibus to fund special education at the Governor’s requested levels. During debate, Democrats argued that education funding in Wisconsin has been stagnant over the past eight years and that Governor Evers’ budget reinvests in education as a top priority for the state.  The Democratic amendment on special education categorical aid failed along party lines, and the Republicans’ omnibus passed along party lines.


Attorneys and Courts

Democrats on the committee introduced an omnibus motion encompassing several items in the District Attorneys, Public Defender and Circuit Courts papers. These included 2% pay progression increases each year of the biennium for state district attorneys, public defenders and Dept. of Justice employees, and a raise in the private  bar rate to $70 for public defenders that would be indexed into the future. The Democrats’ motion failed on party lines. Republicans introduced their own omnibus that adopted some the Democrats’ provisions, but without DOJ pay progression or indexing for the private bar rate, and excluding Milwaukee County DA funding from GPR. The Republican motion passed on party lines.


UW System

Democrats introduced an omnibus motion to accept the Governor’s budget recommendations for the UW system, including extending and paying for the resident undergraduate tuition freeze, establishing a $10 million Nurse Educators program for the UW System, WTCS and nonprofit private institutions, funding for student success and attainment, and a supplemental pay plan to attract top faculty at UW institutions. The motion funded the UW system at a higher rate than any point in the past decade and provided more funding for need-based grants than the last four budgets combined. The Democrats’ motion failed along party lines.


Republicans introduced an omnibus motion to extend the tuition freeze without funding it, and fund UW system programs at nearly $70 million less than the Democrats’ motion. The Republicans’ increase in funding wasn’t even inflationary, according the Legislative Fiscal Bureau. Additionally, the Republican motion set aside $22.5 million per year ($45 million total) for capacity building funding as a supplemental appropriation within the Joint Finance Committee that UW could request. The Joint Finance Committee would have to approve any UW spending under this provision. The Republicans’ motion passed on party lines.


Natural Resources

Democrats introduced an omnibus motion to accept most of the Governor’s budget requests for DNR, including funding for a Natural Resources Science Bureau, $25 million in additional contaminated sediment bonding, increased funding and fees for concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) regulation, increased eligibility for the well compensation fund, and various other programs aimed at clean drinking water. The motion failed along party lines.


Republicans introduced an omnibus that rejected many of the Governor’s requests, including not creating the Natural Resources Science Bureau and taking no action on CAFOs in this section. It also funded several of the clean water initiatives at lower levels than the Democratic motion. Including bonding, the Republican motion funded the DNR at $28 million less than the Democratic motion. The Republican motion passed on party lines.


Health Services

Democrats on the committee introduced an omnibus motion encompassing the Governor’s full budget request for Health Services, including expansion of Medicaid and the federal dollars and state savings associated with that. Co-Chair Nygren ruled the motion out of order as not under budgetary consideration, per Motion #5 at the May 9 JFC meeting.


Republicans introduced an omnibus motion that funded DHS programs at $187.5 million less than Governor Evers’ budget request, not counting Medicaid expansion, and about $900 million less including Medicaid expansion, a lynchpin of Governor Evers’ budget request. During debate on the Republican motion, Co-Chair Nygren refused Democrats their request of a short recess to ask LFB questions about items in the motion. The Republican motion included tens of millions in less spending than Governor Evers’ budget to various programs including Hospital Access Payments, Community Health Benefits, Crisis Intervention, Dental Access Incentives, and Lead Exposure Prevention. The motion included increased spending to MA Cost-to-Continue, Family Care Direct Care, Nursing Home Reimbursements and Personal Care Reimbursements.  The Republican motion passed along a 4-11 party line vote.


Children and Families

Democrats introduced an omnibus motion to accept the Governor’s budget recommendations for the Department of Children and Families. The motion increased funding for various programs within DCF, including for the Wisconsin Shares child care program, TANF-funded grants, and adoption and foster care programs. Overall, the motion increased funding against base for families most in need of assistance by over $231 million for the biennium. The motion was rejected on a party line vote.


Republicans introduced their own omnibus, funding DCF programs at over $100 million less than Democrats, including less for TANF-funded grants and the Wisconsin Shares program. Democrats introduced a simple amendment to the Republican motion to reject the TANF estimate modification, which would have effectively reversed previous committee action that removed Governor Evers’ expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit. The Democratic amendment was rejected on party lines and the Republican motion passed on party lines.



Democrats on the committee introduced an omnibus motion encompassing the Governor’s full budget request for the Department of Transportation. The motion included an eight cent indexed increase in the gas tax, sustainably funding transportation at over $500 million more than the previous budget, including approximately $73 million from out of state drivers, and paring back most of the GPR transfer included in previous budgets. The Democratic motion failed on party lines.


Republicans introduced an omnibus motion to fund transportation using a combination of fee increases and GPR transfers. The motion increases title fees by $95 and automobile registration fees by $10 from $75 to $85, for a total fee revenue increase of nearly $400 million. It also transfers $177 million in GPR to the transportation fund, including a one-time use of $90 million in budget surplus funds for local roads improvements. The motion passed 11-5 with Sen. Duey Stroebel joining Democrats in voting against the motion.



Democrats moved to accept the Governor’s recommendations to expand the Wisconsin Healthcare Stability Plan and funding for positions for ACA Healthcare Marketplace Outreach. The Democrats’ motions were rejected on party lines.


Republicans moved to accept the Governor’s recommended funding for the Wisconsin Healthcare Stability Plan and Healthcare Outreach without the attached recommended positions approved. In the case of Healthcare Outreach, it moved the $500,000 annual funding to the committee’s supplemental appropriation, for OCI to request the release of the funding. The Republican motions passed on party lines.



Democrats introduced an omnibus motion to fund the Department of Justice at levels roughly requested by Governor Evers, including increased funding for crime lab analysts, pay progression, investigative resources, and an $8 million increase for the treatment alternatives and diversion (TAD) program over the biennium. The motion failed along party lines.


Republicans introduced an omnibus to fund DOJ at lower levels than Democrats, including $6 million less for the TAD program. The Republican motion passed on party lines.


Building Commission/Program

Democrats introduced an omnibus motion to approve the Governor's entire $2.5 billion capital budget, making the largest investment in infrastructure in state history. The motion invested in a broad array of renovations, repairs, and new building projects for the UW System, our state parks, and other state buildings across the state. The motion failed on a party-line vote


Republicans introduced an omnibus motion to approve $1.9 billion in new building projects, including many of the projects in the Governor's proposal. They did not include funding for the new state office building in Milwaukee, the Alliant Energy Center expansion in Madison, the Potawatomi and Pattison state parks, the Coate/Sanford Hall Renovations and Prairie Springs Science Center (Phase II) at UW-La Crosse, and some other needed projects the Governor funded. The motion passed on a party-line vote.


Natural Resources

Democrats moved to accept Governor’s full DNR budget including wage increases for state park workers and the reauthorization of the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship program for another 10 years. The Democrats’ motion failed on a party-line vote.


The Republicans’ motion reauthorized the Knowles Nelson Stewardship program from 2 years at the current funding levels, funded state parks staffing and operations at about $600,000 less than the Governor’s proposal, and provided additional funding for ATV and UTV County Enforcement Aids, research on CWD, and repairs at the Elroy-Sparta Trail and a portion of the 400 State Trail. Their motion passed on a party-line vote.


Juvenile Corrections

Democrats introduced a motion to approve the Governor’s budget proposal on juvenile corrections, including his proposals around closing Lincoln Hills once all juveniles are transferred to Secured Residential Care Centers (SRCCs) or new state facilities. The Democrats’ motion also included the Governor’s proposal to raise the age of adult jurisdiction from 17 to 18 years of age, which was one of the items previously removed from debate by Republicans. The entire motion was determined out of order by Rep. Nygren after Democrats refused to strike the provision to raise the age.


Republicans introduced a motion that made no modifications to the timeline for closing Lincoln Hills and removed reimbursements for counties that construct new SRCCs. The motion passed on a party-line vote.



Democrats introduced a motion to approve the Governor’s DATCP budget and five positions at the DNR to regulate CAFOs, plus $15 million in funding over the biennium for the Dairy Innovation Hub. The motion failed on a party-line vote.


Republicans moved to fund DATCP programs at around $630,000 less than the Governor, fund the Dairy Innovation Hub at $8.8 million in the Joint Finance Committee's supplemental appropriation (requiring UW-Madison to request the funds at a later date), and fund four positions to regulate CAFOs in line with AB 69/SB 31, which pays for the cost of regulating CAFOs with funding from the nonpoint SEG fund, rather than CAFO fees as the Governor proposed. Their motion passed on a party-line vote.



Democrats on the committee introduced an omnibus motion encompassing the Governor’s budget request for General Fund Taxes, including items that had been previously removed from budgetary consideration under Motion #5 on May 9. The motion included a tax cut on 68% of income tax filers, with an average tax break of $216 per filer. It also included a new Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, increases in the Homestead Credit, Earned Income Tax Credit and Research Credit, and limitations on the Manufacturing and Agriculture Credit. The motion was ruled out of order because it included the items previously removed.


Republicans introduced their own omnibus motion on taxes. It reduced the individual income marginal tax rate for the second income bracket from 5.84 to 5.21% and cost just over $150 million a year, with a tax cut for 62% of filers and average additional break of $75 per filer. It did not include the EITC expansion, Homestead expansion, the Governor’s new child care tax credit, or a research tax credit increase. It also lowered corporate taxes by about $160 million. The Republican motion passed on party lines.


Wrap-Up Motion (#999 Motion)

The wrap-up motion included no extra programs or financing and simply recommended all committee changes be incorporated into the Assembly and Senate versions of the budget bill, with a recommendation for passage. The motion passed along party lines.