The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) held their first public hearings this week on Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed 2017-19 state budget. JFC heard from agency heads at the Capitol on March 28-30, and will spend April listening to testimony from citizens throughout Wisconsin before they begin votes on the budget in early May.
The hearings throughout the week highlighted concerns from citizens throughout the state who expressed support for education, transportation and Medicaid funding, as well as criminal justice reform and arguments against removing the forestry tax, cuts to DNR funding and the elimination of DNR’s magazine and the elimination of LIRC, among other issues.
The first hearing was held at UW-Platteville on Monday, April 3. In total, 167 people registered to speak at the hearing. Testimony focused heavily on K-12 education funding and Gov. Walker’s UW-system student fees opt-out proposal, which JFC removed from the budget later this week. Several health care advocates asked JFC to further increase Medicaid reimbursements for providers. JFC members also heard considerable testimony on broadband expansion and the proposed elimination of the Department of Natural Resources’ magazine.
The second day of public hearings was held in West Allis on Wednesday, April 5. Testimony focused on transportation funding and juvenile correction reforms, using Lincoln Hills School as an example. While many citizens again addressed education and health care funding, citizens in West Allis focused more on poverty, homelessness and criminal justice reforms. Transportation also played a more significant role here as citizens asked JFC members to revive expansion plans for I-94 in Milwaukee, reigniting the contentious transportation funding debate that is dividing Gov. Scott Walker and Republican legislators.
The third day of public hearings was held in Berlin on Friday, April 7. A total of 170 people registered to speak. Testimony again focused mainly on education issues, but citizens also expressed concern about long-term care and Medicaid reimbursement funding and district attorney and public defender pay progression.
The remaining public hearings are scheduled for:
Tuesday, April 18 (10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.) Spooner High School
Wednesday, April 19 (10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.) Ellsworth High School
Friday, April 21 (10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.) Marinette High School
Democrats also held their own budget hearings at UW-Green Bay and UW-Eau Claire on Saturday, April 8 and will hold two more: in Dodgeville on April 22 and Wausau on April 29.
Amid last week’s hearings, JFC announced it would remove 83 non-fiscal items from Gov. Walker’s proposed budget. Walker’s office also released his budget errata correcting technical errors from his original budget.