Legislature Begins Work on State Budget
The State Legislature’s budget writing committee, the Joint Committee on Finance, formally began its work on the Governor’s budget proposal this week with briefings from state agencies.  While legislators have been meeting with budget experts, agency officials, and interested parties since the Governor submitted his recommendations in early February, the briefings held this week were the first formal steps as the Legislature moves forward on the budget bill.
During these briefings, the committee had the opportunity to ask questions of state agencies on the provisions of the Governor’s budget proposal, including those relating to education, medical assistance, corrections, and natural resources.  The briefings allow legislators to ask detailed questions about how various budget proposals would work and be implemented, as well as learning more about the cost or benefit to the state of specific provisions.  These briefings can be viewed online at www.wiseye.org.
Later this month, the budget writing committee will be travelling around the state to receive input from citizens regarding their budget priorities.  In an effort to ensure that residents of western and northwestern Wisconsin a convenient opportunity to provide their input, I have consistently advocated for holding a budget hearing in our area to make the budget process accessible to area residents. 
The co-chairs of the budget writing committee have released the schedule for this year’s budget hearings and I am pleased that one of the public hearings will again be held in our region.  A public hearing in Rice Lake will be held on March 23rd at the UW-Barron County campus.  In addition to Rice Lake, the budget writing committee has scheduled public hearings in Brillion, Reedsburg, and Milwaukee. 
Individuals interested in testifying should register with legislative staff when they arrive at the hearing.  Those that do not wish to testify, but would like to watch the proceedings, are also encouraged to attend.  Written testimony can also be submitted to the committee by those unable to attend by submitting an e-mail atbudgetcomments@legis.wisconsin.gov or by sending a letter to the Joint Committee on Finance, Attn:  Joe Malkasian, Room 305 East State Capitol, Madison, WI, 53702.
Following the public hearings, the committee will begin its work on amending and adopting changes to the budget proposal.  This process is expected to begin in early April and continue through May.  More information on the budget writing committee can be found at http://legis.wisconsin.gov/lfb/jfc/, including a link to sign up for e-mail notifications of committee actions.
What are your thoughts on the Governor’s budget?  I welcome your comments and input.  Please visit my website at www.harsdorfsenate.com or call my office at 1-800-862-1092 or 608-266-7745.