Monday, May 1
The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) held its first executive session on May 1 on Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed 2017-19 state budget. As with previous years, JFC typically takes up the less controversial, smaller budget items first and saves the big items – transportation, education and Medicaid – for last.
Kicking off their executive sessions, the committee voted on several areas including the Judicial Commission and Council, the Employment Relations Commission, Department of Administration—Division of Gaming, Office of the Commissioner of Insurance, Boards for People with Developmental Disabilities and Aging and Long-Term Care and the Environmental Improvement Fund.
JFC rejected several proposals in Walker’s budget, including his proposal to eliminate the Judicial Council and to transfer the Judicial Commission under the control of the state Supreme Court. This is the second-time JFC rejected these proposals, as Walker included the provisions in his proposed 2015-17 state budget.
Under the Environmental Improvement Fund, which includes the Clean Water Fund and the Safe Drinking Water Loan Program, JFC mostly aligned with the governor’s proposals. As a result, JFC adopted an increase in the state share of the interest rate subsidy on loans made through the Clean Water Fund (CWF). Under the approved provision, most CWF loans will receive a 45 percent interest rate subsidy from the state, instead of 30 percent. JFC also adopted a motion to extend the length of the repayment period for loans made thorough the CWF from 20 years to 30 years.
Under the Safe Drinking Water Loan Program (SDWLP), JFC adopted the governor’s bonding level increase of $5.8 million. The committee rejected (12-4) a motion pushed by the minority JFC members, to make a permanent directive to DNR and DOA to request EPA to use the maximum amounts of principal forgiveness for private lead pipe replacement and direct more funds to Milwaukee for private lead pipe replacement.
Tuesday, May 9
On Tuesday May 9, the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) convened their second executive session on Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed 2017-19 state budget. JFC plans to meet each Tuesday and Thursday in May and June until their work is finished.
The May 9 agenda included the Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board, the Secretary of State, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), the Department of Military Affairs and the Department of Justice.
The first focus of the day’s votes included expanding WEDC’s loan program. In the 2015-17 budget and amid controversy surrounding the business loan program, the legislature phased out WEDC loan program and capped loans to no more than $10 million in 2015-16 and $5 million in 2016-17. On May 9, JFC decided to open the program again, adopting the governor’s proposal to allow WEDC to originate new loans, however JFC rejected the governor’s proposal that those loans could only be funded from repayments of other loans.
Under the Department of Military Affairs (DMA), JFC voted unanimously for a motion from Rep. Felzkowski (R-Irma) and Sen. Harsdorf (R-River Falls) to invest almost $7 million in Next Generation 911 in the second year of the biennium. The budget motion established a 19-member 911 subcommittee, attached to the DMA, to oversee the implementation of a Next Generation emergency services IP network, and issues related to Public Service Answering Points (PSAPs).
The committee also took up a variety of programs under the Department of Justice, modifying the governor’s proposals and requiring the Attorney General to submit a proposed plan for settlement money to JFC. JFC also included language in several DOJ motions, directing DOJ to lapse portions of settlement funding to the general fund. According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, DOJ received $11.4 million in discretionary settlement funds from the Volkswagen Settlement.
Included in the DOJ programs, JFC reduced the governor’s $2 million proposal to invest in Treatment Alternatives and Diversion Programs to $250,000 annually. Under the Beat Patrol Overtime Grants, JFC adopted the governor’s proposal to appropriate $2 million over the biennium for grants to cities to reimburse police overtime costs. JFC modified the governor’s proposal and limited the program to cities that have a population of 25,000 or more.
Thursday, May 11
The Joint Finance Committee held their third executive session on Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed 2017-19 state budget on May 11. The committee took up proposals under the Department of Financial Institutions, the Public Service Commission, the Department of Safety and Professional Services, Medicaid Services Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Legislature.
Under the Public Service Commission (PSC), JFC voted unanimously to approve the governor’s proposal to increase expenditure authority for the PSC’s intervenor compensation program by $371,000 each year in the biennium. The program would help pay for intervention by ratepayer and environmental groups in construction and rate case dockets. Expenditure authority for this was cut by the legislature in the last biennial budget.
The committee offered no papers or motions on funding for “Operation Dark Sky,” a large-scale, multi-state, multi-disciplinary exercise designed to prepare the state to respond to a widespread disruption of electrical power and communication systems caused by a cyberattack, leaving the governor’s recommendation for $325,000 in one-time funding in place.
Also of note in the PSC budget, JFC Democrats introduced a motion, similar to Sen. Rob Cowles’s (R-Green Bay) bill, that would give financial assistance to municipalities for lead pipes. The motion failed 4-12, along party lines.
The committee also took up various programs under the Department of Safety and Public Instruction. The committee voted unanimously to approve a motion that would allow practitioners’ agents to review patients’ Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) records and would clarify other language from last session’s PDMP bill.
JFC also voted 14-2 to pass a motion that would direct DSPS to study various occupational licenses and submit findings to the legislature and the governor would review. The motion replaced the governor’s recommendation to create an Occupational License Review Council.