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I hope everyone has a happy Father's Day this weekend celebrating with friends and family and don't forget to stay cool!

The Joint Committee on Finance met twice this week and took final action on the Departments of Health Services, Children and Families, Insurance Commission, Public Service Commission, and Revenue.

The budget will now move to the legislature where the Assembly and Senate will vote before sending it to the Governor.

This update includes:

  • Budget Breakdown for June 15th and 17th 
  • State Fire Danger 
  • COVID Testing and Vaccination Update
  • New Legislation
  • Juneteenth Celebration 
  • Governor Tony Evers' Radio Address and additional resources!

I hope you find this information helpful and please don't hesitate to reach out to my office if you have any questions.

Sincerely,
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JON ERPENBACH
State Senator
27th District

 

Highlights from Joint Finance Executive Sessions on the 2021-2023 State Budget

June 15th Executive Session Action 

  • Health Services -- Medical Assistance
  • Health Services -- Medical Assistance and FoodShare Administration
  • Health Services -- Public Health
  • Health Services -- Elder and Disability Services
  • Health Services -- Community Based Behavioral Health
  • Health Services -- Care and Treatment Facilities
  • Health Services -- Departmentwide
  • Insurance -- Agency Operations and Current Programs
  • Insurance -- Drug Costs and Pricing
  • Insurance -- Health Insurance
  • Board on Aging and Long-Term Care
  • Children and Families -- TANF and Economic Support
  • Children and Families -- Child Welfare
  • Children and Families -- Departmentwide and Child Support Enforcement
  • Public Service Commission -- Broadband Provisions
  • Public Service Commission -- Departmentwide and Energy Programs

Department of Health Services (DHS) & Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI)

Democrats offered Motion #103, which would accept Medicaid Expansion and save $1.6 billion in GPR funds, this would cover the maintenance of effort (MOE) to qualify Wisconsin for $2.3 billion in federal funds for K-12 schools (see memo here). Republicans blocked this motion from a vote.

 

Democrats then moved omnibus Motion #109 to include DHS, and OCI. The motion would increase Medicaid reimbursement rates for nursing homes, personal care workers, autism service, emergency physician and dental health. This proposal would also allow Medicaid to cover doula services, community health services, acupuncture services and it would expand postpartum eligibility for Wisconsin mothers from 60 days to one year. The also motion increased funding for Critical Access Hospital and Disproportionate Share Hospital payments as well as funding for public health initiatives including Black infant and maternal health, communicable disease grants and staffing, community health centers and Birth to 3 programs. Motion #109 would provide funding for mental health, regional crisis response system grants, substance abuse, dementia care specialists and Alzheimer's family and caregiver support. The motion failed 4-11.

 

The GOP offered Motion #111. This motion did not include a number of items that were in the Governor’s budget. The list of those items are here. This motion addressed DHS, OCI and BALTC. The motion would spend less than the Governor’s budget on community health centers, free and charitable clinics, autism services, Alzheimer’s family and caregiver support, regional crisis response system grants and FoodShare. The motion passed 11-4.

 

Board on Aging & Long-Term Care (BALTC)

Democrats moved Alternative 1 on BALTC paper #180. The motion would provide funding to increase ombudsman program staff by 2.0 full time positions. This motion failed 4-11.

 

Department of Children and Families (DCF)

Democrats on the committee offered Motion #108, the Governor’s budget request for DCF. The motion included funding increases for programs to provide assistance to struggling families, make childcare more affordable and invest in foster care and adoption programs. The motion increased funds to these critical programs by over $150 million over the biennium. The motion failed 4-11.

 

Republicans offered Motion #110. The motion increased funding to priority programs by less than half the Governor’s budget request. Motion passed 11-4.

Public Service Commission (PSC)

Democrats on the committee offered Motion #106, which had items that were removed from further consideration. The items included broadband provision as well as focus on energy programs and electric vehicle charging stations. This motion was blocked by Republicans.

 

Democrats then offered Motion #107, which would create an annual appropriation using GPR of $74.793 million in 2021 and $72.941 million in 2022 to fund a broadband expansion grant program issued by PSC. The motion would also provide planning grants and a broadband line extension grant program. The motion failed 4-11.

 

GOP members offered Motion #112, which offered $125 million in general bonding to make broadband expansion grants available offered by the PSC, choosing not to spend general purpose revenue on the program. This motion invested $75 million less than what the Governor proposed. The motion passed 11-4.

June 17th Executive Session Action

  • Employee Trust Funds
  • Compensation Reserves
  • Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority
  • Shared Revenue and Tax Relief -- Direct Aid Payments
  • Shared Revenue and Tax Relief -- Property Tax Credits
  • Shared Revenue and Tax Relief -- Property Taxation
  • Shared Revenue and Tax Relief -- Forestry Mill Rate
  • Shared Revenue and Tax Relief -- Local Revenue Options
  • Revenue -- Regulation of Alcohol, Tobacco, Nicotine Products, and
  • Vapor Products
  • Revenue -- Lottery Administration
  • Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation
  • General Fund Taxes -- Income and Franchise Taxes
  • General Fund Taxes -- Sales and Use Taxes
  • General Fund Taxes -- Excise Taxes
  • General Fund Taxes -- Refundable Tax Credits and Other Payments
  • Budget Stabilization Fund

    Employee Trust Fund (ETF) & Compensation Reserves 

Democrats on the committee offered Motion #113 would increase general salary for state and UW System employees by 2% on each January 1, 2023 and 2023. The motion adopted a pay progression system for nursing assistants and residential care technicians. Finally, the motion would provide ETF funding for IT upgrades and cybersecurity.

 

Republicans offered Motion #118 which adopted most proposals in the Democratic motion and added an hourly pay increase for select security positions in the correctional facilities. The proposal would increase pay by $5 an hour for adult institutions that have staff vacancies of 40%. Currently, only Waupun correctional meets this qualification.

 

Shared Revenue and Tax Relief & Department of Revenue (DOR)

Democrats offered Motion #116, which would increase county and municipal aid by 2% in both calendar years. The motion increased payments for municipal services and made changes to lottery administration. The Democrats motion included a K-12 schools general aid increase, with a per pupil revenue limit adjustment. The funding would increase school revenue by $120 million in 2021 and $290 million in 2022 while decreasing the school levy by $680 million in 2021 and $510 million in 2022 in property tax cuts. This provision would meet the federal MOE to receive federal K-12 funding. 

 

The GOP members offered Motion #117 which did not increase aid to local governments. The motion had provisions to eliminate the personal property tax and it set aside $202 million in one time appropriation to backfill the tax revenue to local governments. The proposal hinges upon legislation passed through the legislature to eliminate the tax and the funds will also be withheld in the Joint Finance Supplemental Fund until further JFC action to release the funds.

 

General Fund Taxes, Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), Stabilization Fund 

Democrats on the committee offered omnibus Motion #119, the Governor’s budget requests for General Fund Taxes, WEDC and the budget stabilization fund. The motion included several new or expanded tax credits, including a Family Caregiver Tax Credit, Child and Dependent Care Expenses Tax Credit and a sales and use tax exemption for diapers. It also adopted several federal tax provisions from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The motion also included WEDC’s budget, with a one-time appropriation of $200 million to assist small business recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and a $100 million venture capital program. Overall, the motion effectively reduced the tax burden on working families by over $300 million over the biennium. The motion failed 4-11.

 

The Republicans on the committee moved Motion #120. The motion reduced the tax rate for the third income tax bracket (individual or joint filers making between $24,000 and $263,000) from 6.27% to 5.30%, lowering revenues by just under $2.4 billion over the biennium. It also transferred $200 million in GPR to the budget stabilization fund, for a total of $2.1 billion in that fund to date. The motion passed 11-4.

 

Budget Wrap Up and 999 motion 

The Republicans on the committee moved Motion #2001, incorporating final changes to the budget before adoption. The motion brought the budget into compliance with Maintenance of Effort standards required by federal coronavirus relief laws over the past year to guarantee the state will receive billions in federal funding for K-12 and higher education. Specifically, it increased general school aid base funding by $408 million over the biennium and provided a $72 million GPR increase for property tax relief aid for technical colleges. It also increased the annual allotment for the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship by $1.25 million to $9.25 million, matching the current level. The motion passed 11-4.

 

Finally, Republicans moved Motion #999, incorporating all action by JFC into substitute amendments for AB 68/SB 111 (the budget bill), and recommending the bills for passage as amended. The motion passed 11-4. 


High Fire Danger Across Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) asks the public to stay vigilant and avoid burning due to high fire danger across much of the state.

The drought monitor indicates the southeast and southern portions of Wisconsin are experiencing Moderate to Severe drought conditions. Those areas are experiencing well below normal rainfall and the vegetation is starting to dry out, making it more likely to catch fire.

Areas with HIGH fire danger today include Adams, Barron, Bayfield, Buffalo, Burnett, Chippewa, Clark, Columbia, Crawford, Dane, Dodge, Douglas, Dunn, Eau Claire, Grant, Green, Green Lake, Iowa, Jackson, Jefferson, Juneau, Kenosha, La Crosse, Lafayette, Langlade, Marquette, Milwaukee, Monroe, Ozaukee, Pepin, Pierce, Polk, Racine, Richland, Rock, Rusk, Saint Croix, Sauk, Sawyer, Trempealeau, Vernon, Walworth, Washburn, Washington, Waukesha, Waushara, Winnebago and Wood counties.

There is MODERATE fire danger in Ashland, Brown, Calumet, Door, Fond du Lac, Iron, Kewaunee, Lincoln, Manitowoc, Marathon, Marinette, Oconto, Oneida, Outagamie, Portage, Price, Sheboygan, Taylor, Vilas, Waupaca and Winnebago counties.

The DNR has responded to 765 wildfires burning more than 1,900 acres so far this year, plus many more suppressed by local fire departments and federal partners.

Be extra careful with any outdoor flames, campfires, ash disposal or equipment use. Please check any recent debris burns for smoldering embers, as breezy conditions can cause fires to rekindle. 

Be fire smart. Remember – fire danger and burning restrictions change every day.

FIRE SAFETY TIPS

  • Check before you burn; monitor conditions and restrictions daily.
  • Operate equipment (chainsaws, off-road vehicles, lawn mowers, etc.) early in the morning or late in the day to avoid sparks at peak burn hours.
  • Secure dragging trailer chains.
  • Delay having campfires until the evening hours as fire conditions tend to improve; keep them small and contained.
  • Report fires early, dial 911.

Check daily fire danger, wildfire reports and burning restrictions at: bit.ly/WiFireDanger.

 


Testing & Vaccination Operations at Alliant Energy Center Ending June 26th

Public Health Madison and Dane County has announced that effective June 26, 2021, the community testing and vaccination site at the Alliant Energy Center will be closed. Since emergency operations began, Public Health Madison & Dane County has conducted roughly 425,000 COVID-19 tests and administered 83,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine at Alliant. 

From the first test on May 11, 2020, to the first vaccination on December 29, 2020, more than 150 full-time, part-time, and limited-term employees worked tirelessly to meet the ever-changing demands of the pandemic.

The Wisconsin National Guard supported testing in conjunction with Public Health staff from May 2020 until Public Health took over testing operations completely in fall 2020. FEMA and National Guard staff also supported vaccination efforts in in April and May of 2021, raising vaccination capacity from 5,600 to 7,700 doses per week.

In total, 11% of Dane County vaccine doses have been given at the Alliant Energy Center, and about 33% of residents received a COVID test at the site.  

The closing of this community site does not mean the work is over. Public Health will continue to provide testing and vaccination services in our existing spaces including the South Madison and East Washington offices in addition to hosting mobile vaccination clinics throughout the county.  

Testing is by appointment only at South Madison Office (2230 S. Park Street):

  • Tuesdays: 8am – 4pm
  • Thursdays: 12pm – 8pm
  • Saturdays: 8am – 4pm

Vaccination by appointment or drop-in:

  • Monday: South Madison Office (2230 S. Park Street) – 8am – 4pm
  • Friday: South Madison Office (2230 S. Park Street) – 8am – 4pm
  • Thursday: East Washington Office (2705 East Washington Ave) – 8am – 4pm
  • Wednesday: South Madison Office (2230 S. Park Street) – 12pm – 8pm
  • Tuesday: East Washington Office (2705 East Washington Ave) – 12pm – 8pm

Mobile vaccination efforts are ongoing, with several first and second dose clinics happening every week throughout Dane County.

See this map to find one near you or for more information, visit https://publichealthmdc.com/vax.

 


Legislators Reintroduce Ghost Gun Safety Legislation

Senator Erpenbach and Representative Hesselbein are circulating a proposal to close the ghost gun loophole to keep Wisconsinites safe. In September 2018, the Middleton community fell victim to a workplace shooting when a gunman opened fire at WTS Paradigm. According to former Middleton Police Chief Charles Foulke the gunman, Anthony Tong, was ineligible to purchase a firearm. However, Tong was able to legally assemble the weapon’s parts and create an untraceable firearm without a serial number, exploiting this loophole.

 

“We are introducing this legislation to address the issue of undetectable firearms to try and prevent what happened in Middleton from ever happening again,” said Representative Dianne Hesselbein (D-Middleton). “Our community is asking elected leaders to take action on common-sense gun safety measures. Without these policies in place we continue to leave ourselves and our neighbors at risk. What happened at Paradigm is a tragic example of why this cannot wait for another legislative session to pass. We need action on this bill now.”

 

Ghost guns (or undetectable firearms) are described as firearms that are assembled from kits or made with a 3D printer. Ghost guns made in this way may be undetectable by metal detectors and untraceable by law enforcement. Selling gun parts and components that can be used to build a firearm creates a loophole since buyers of unfinished gun parts or components are not required to undergo a background check. Self-assembled firearms can also be ghost guns as they may not come with a serial number, whereas a traditional manufacturer would include this information.

 

“It’s been three years since an active shooter targeted his place of work in Middleton. Yet in those three years we have made zero progress to ensure that no other Wisconsinites are affected by gun violence,” said Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-West Point). “We cannot afford to continue to ignore this issue and allow innocent people to die at the hand of firearms. Enough is enough, it is time to do what is right to protect our communities and families.”

 


Celebrate Juneteenth Day

As we celebrate Juneteenth on Saturday, it's important to remember the significance of this day the work we still need to do to improve inequities for Black Americans. On June 19, 1865 the last remaining enslaved people learned of the Emancipation Proclamation when word reached Texas over two years after it was signed.
Even though those who were enslaved were finally freed in 1865, Black Americans are still facing racism, injustices, and inequalities. From infant mortality rates that are 3x that of their white counterparts, to Wisconsin’s prior leadership consistently defunding education and directing that money into our prison systems - our communities deserve better.
Instead of perpetuating systems stacked against Black Wisconsinites, we should instead be investing our money into programs and services that benefit all of Wisconsin. There is no excuse for the continued racism that exists and we must do much more to eliminate inequities and improve our state for all. 

 


DATCP Producer-Led Grant Program Increases Conservation Practices on Wisconsin Farms

Data collected by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) shows that conservation practices among producer-led groups in the program grew by 82% from 2019 to 2020. Conservation practices include low disturbance manure application, split nitrogen applications, no-till and cover crops. These practices help reduce soil erosion and phosphorus loss from farm fields, ensuring that more nutrients go into farmers’ crops, rather than into local soil and water sources.

The data suggests that DATCP’s Producer-Led Watershed Protection Grant Program is an effective way to increase the use of conservation practices across farmland. Recent program numbers show that conservation practices implemented through the work of state-funded groups grew from 439,237 acres in 2019 to 798,221 acres in 2020. The information is a result of DATCP’s Conservation Tracking effort to better understand the potential outcomes the program has on land and water resources in the state.

 

Additionally, DATCP’s analysis shows that 211 farmers in the program planted a total of 62,587 acres using no-till technology — a 19% increase from 2019. This resulted in an estimated reduction of 84,860 tons of soil erosion and prevented the loss of an estimated 54,072 pounds of phosphorus. Cover crop implementation followed a similar trend, with 83,843 acres planted across 423 farms (a 19% increase from 2019). These improvements are expected to reduce soil erosion by an estimated 75,364 tons and prevent an estimated 41,492 pounds of phosphorus from leaving farm fields.

In addition to documenting the implementation of these practices, the Conservation Tracking project will model sediment and phosphorus reductions from different conservation systems. DATCP will also begin incorporating additional metrics associated with the expanding ecosystem service program opportunities, such as soil carbon and greenhouse gas emissions.  

 

In the 2021-2023 biennial state budget, Governor Tony Evers recommended increasing available funding for the Producer-Led program to $1 million each year on a continuing basis to help meet ongoing conservation needs across the state. On June 10, the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee agreed to provide the funding for the next two fiscal years. For more information about the program, visit https://datcp.wi.gov/Pages/Programs_Services/ProducerLedProjects.aspx.

 


Governor's Weekly Radio Address

Gov. Tony Evers today delivered the Democratic Radio Address celebrating Juneteenth in Wisconsin and highlighting the state's continued efforts to address existing racial disparities and ensure a more just, equitable, and fair state for Wisconsinites.

You can listen to the audio file here and the written transcript is below: 

 

"Hi, Wisconsin. Governor Tony Evers here.


For 156 years, our nation has celebrated Juneteenth: the day in 1865 when Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to declare the end of slavery, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was enacted.

 

This Juneteenth, as we recognize the trials Black Americans have overcome and celebrate the resilience, vibrancy, and countless contributions of Black Wisconsinites, we must also recognize our work toward equity and justice in this state is far from finished.

 

I don’t have to tell you that Wisconsin faces some of the most disparate outcomes for Black Wisconsinites, from inequities in housing and healthcare to education and childcare to the justice system and economic opportunity.

 

And the COVID-19 pandemic has only underscored and furthered these inequities, making our work that much more pressing and that much more urgent.

 

That's why, as we keep bouncing back from the pandemic, we’re also working to make sure that we’re putting equity front and center in our recovery efforts and addressing racial disparities in our state head on.

 

Because we know that building a more just, more equitable, and more fair state means connecting the dots between issues and tackling disparities holistically.

 

Folks, we’ve got our work cut out for us.

 

But I know that, by working together, we will move forward in solidarity and build a more just, more equitable Wisconsin for everyone.

 

Thank you."



Help Wisconsin Turtles! 

With turtle nesting season soon underway, state conservation biologists and highway officials are joining forces to encourage Wisconsinites to hatch a brighter future for slow-moving, slow-growing turtles by taking a few simple steps. 

 

Most of Wisconsin's 11 turtle species breed in late May through June and often cross roads to lay their eggs in nests on higher ground. Turtles getting run over by cars is a leading cause of the decline in turtle numbers in Wisconsin. The predation of turtle nests by raccoons, skunks and coyotes is another major problem.

 

Because some species – such as wood turtles and Blanding’s turtles – take 12 to 20 years to reach reproductive maturity, the death of even one female turtle a year can take a big toll.

 

To protect turtle populations, the Wisconsin DNR and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) are asking people to protect turtles on the move. Follow these protective actions from now through the end of June, when the nesting season ends:


Get Covered Through the ACA!

Thanks to new COVID relief, health insurance premiums have decreased on Healthcare.gov and you can sign up to get covered right now! Four out of five enrollees will now be able to find a plan for $10 or less per month.

If you’ve shopped on Healthcare.gov before, look again! New, lower prices are available for more people than ever before.

If you are are currently uninsured, already signed up for a plan through Healthcare.gov, or eligible for COBRA coverage from a former employer, you may benefit from these changes. People looking to get enrolled or change their current plan are encouraged to visit Wiscovered.com or call 2-1-1 to get free, expert help.

This new enrollment opportunity won’t last forever- sign up today!


Rental Assistance

Reminder, if you or anyone you know that has experienced income loss as a result of the pandemic their is support available! 
 
The Wisconsin Emergency Rental Assistance Program, provides direct financial assistance for rent, utility, home energy costs, and wraparound services for individuals who qualify.
 
For information on the program, how to apply, frequently asked questions as well as local resources and contacts please click here.

 


- Resources - 

During this difficult time it is worth reminding Wisconsinites that 211 exists to help when you don’t know where to turn. 211 is a resource managed by the United Way of Wisconsin. Call 2-1-1 or visit their website.

Office of Crime Victim Services

End Abuse Wisconsin 

National Domestic Violence Hotline: Call 1-800-799-7233, text LOVEIS to 22522, or go to thehotline.org for free and confidential support.

Disaster Distress Hotline 

Coping Resources for Kids and Parents Amidst COVID-19 

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Veterans Crisis Line 

Vets for Warriors 

Military One Source 

Resilient Wisconsin

Department of Corrections Helpline: The call center can be reached by members of the public Monday through Friday from 7:45am–4:30pm at (608) 240-5700.

Wisconsin Farm Center 

24/7 Farmer Wellness Hotline

LGBTQ Crisis Line 

HopeLine Text Service 

Wisconsin Elder Abuse Hotline 

Wisconsin Addiction Recovery Helpline 


 

Looking for additional resources? If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to my office at Sen.Erpenbach@Legis.WI.Gov, or call (608) 266-6670. 

 

 
 
Contacting My Office

Feel free to contact me with any inquiries.

Please visit my website for press releases and other Capitol updates.