In May, the Wisconsin Assembly held one floor session, while the Senate did not meet. No additional floor dates have been scheduled for May. So far, six bills have been signed into law this month.
Assembly: May 17 (floor calendar)
The Assembly met May 17 and passed one bill and eight resolutions. The Assembly devoted most of the four-hour floor period to considering Assembly Bill 245, the Republican proposal to reform “shared revenue,” state tax revenue that is divided among local governments to support various programs and services. Shared revenue has been a key issue this budget cycle for legislators, the governor, and many stakeholders and interest groups.
The Assembly rejected two amendments introduced by Democratic legislators and then adopted an amendment from the bill’s author and passed the bill, 56-36. The amendment raises the baseline increase in county and municipal aid from 10 to 15 percent and makes a number of other technical changes. Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said Assembly Republicans were “done negotiating:” “We feel like the bill that’s coming forward is the result of … good faith negotiations. … We are not going to change the bill substantially.”
In a statement issued the morning of May 17, before the amendment was introduced, Gov. Tony Evers (D) said he was “optimistic about ongoing shared revenue negotiations with Republican leaders” and that “all parties have come to the table committed to finding common ground.” Following the Assembly vote, a spokesperson said that the governor “hasn’t signed off on any amendment, but he looks forward to continuing negotiations with Republican leaders in the weeks ahead.”
Speaker Vos and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) have been involved in negotiations over shared revenue with Gov. Evers. A key sticking point in negotiations is the process by which Milwaukee would be allowed to temporarily increase the local sales tax in order to fund outstanding pension obligations. AB 245 requires any tax increase to be approved by Milwaukee residents via referendum. Both Gov. Evers and Sen. LeMahieu have indicated that they do not support this provision and would prefer to allow local elected officials to enact the tax increases.
The Senate has not yet considered the bill in committee or on the floor. According to Sen. LeMahieu, the chamber will take the original version of the bill through the committee process and will “continue to work with the governor and maybe the speaker if he’s willing to work with us down the road.” Speaker Vos suggested that his caucus is not interested in changing the Milwaukee sales tax approval provision.
When AB 245 was introduced, Gov. Evers stated he would veto the bill in its initial form. The governor criticized the proposal for not providing enough of a funding increase and for placing some limits on how local governments can spend the additional funding.
Other notable features of the proposal are the creation of a dedicated shared revenue account and adding one-fifth of state sales tax revenue to further increase shared revenue payments. See this article for a complete review of the proposal and some of the responses from state political leaders.
Republicans plan to pass shared revenue reform and PFAS legislation separately from the budget to avoid giving Gov. Evers the opportunity to reshape policy language through his partial veto power, which applies only to appropriations bills such as the state budget.
Acts 6-10 Signed into Law
In May, Gov. Evers signed six more bills into law after signing the first four acts of the 2023-24 legislative session in April.
On May 8, Gov. Evers announced that he had signed 2023 Wisconsin Acts 5 through 8. The governor highlighted Act 5 as “a bipartisan bill to support farmers and producers in protecting watersheds across the state by expanding eligibility for producer-led watershed protection grants,” saying, “Farmers and producers are leading the way on some of our water conservation efforts because they know firsthand the value of clean water and fruitful land.”
On May 10, the governor announced that he had signed Acts 9 and 10 to “help address reckless driving and carjacking in the state by increasing penalties for both and creating a new ‘carjacking’ section of the criminal code.”
The six laws recently signed by Gov. Evers were:
- Act 5: Eligibility for producer-led watershed, lake, and river protection grants.
- Act 6: Eliminating the land recycling loan program.
- Act 7: Modifying the Department of Tourism’s reporting duties and repealing obsolete requirements.
- Act 8: Eliminating certain exceptions established for Pleasant Prairie Tax Incremental District Number 2.
- Act 9: Penalties for reckless driving.
- Act 10: Reorganizing the crimes commonly known as “carjacking.”
For more information about the 2023-24 legislative session in Wisconsin, see the following articles: