Budget Update

The Joint Finance Committee continues to vote on various parts of the budget. The committee has mostly voted on non-controversial items thus far, so this week’s session was a change of pace as the committee voted on some more weighty issues.

Video of the JFC hearing from WisconsinEye.

JFC covered the following items at its May 9 executive session:

  • Employment Relations Commission
  • Investment Board
  • Governor
  • Lieutenant Governor
  • Government Accountability Board
  • Legislature
  • Public Service Commission
  • 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 — Local Revenue Options
  • Residency Requirements
  • Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation
  • Safety and Professional Services – Department-wide and Professional Regulation
  • Safety and Professional Services — Buildings and Environmental Regulation
  • Veterans Affairs — Veterans Homes, Cemeteries, and Memorials
  • Wisconsin Technical College System

Items Of Note:

The committee voted to audit the Government Accountability Board, which is the state agency tasked with overseeing ethics rules and elections.

JFC voted to make funding for WEDC conditional upon new compliance and reporting requirements in response to LAB’s audit. Under the motion, WEDC is only guaranteed funding for next year. Additional funding will only be awarded if the agency can show it is complying with the audit.

WEDC is also required to make a written request and appear before the committee before starting a new nonprofit foundation to raise private money for economic development efforts. JFC also approved language that would require WEDC to follow the state purchasing rules.

In addition, all WEDC employees would be required to file a yearly financial statement with the state. This is a change from current law, which only requires the WEDC CEO, currently Reed Hall, to make this filing.

A point to highlight – Sen. Wirch introduced a motion requiring the transfer of $1,000,000 in segregated environmental funding and the authority to administer the brownfield site assessment grant program from WEDC to DNR. That motion passed 16-0.

Other motions introduced by Democratic members of the committee failed. The Democratic motion would have removed all additional WEDC funding and would have given the WEDC board more authority. Specifically, the authority to elect the chair of the WEDC board instead of it automatically being the governor, and the sole authority to hire the WEDC CEO. The motion would also have given the WEDC board authority over WEDC rules and polices. While these motions did not pass, they give you a sense of what minority members of the legislature will be looking for, and may introduce as individual bills.

Click here to read more about the fallout from LAB’s WEDC audit.

Residency Requirements
Gov. Walker’s original budget proposal would have removed the ability of local units of government to require public employees live within the limits of that unit. The lively debate on this issue largely centered on Milwaukee, which has had a residency rule since 1938 according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

In the end, JFC adopted a compromise measure – units of governments will be allowed to set a 15 mile limit for police officers, firefighters and other emergency personnel, but all other public employees may live where they choose.

Performance Based Funding
Under Gov. Walker’s proposed budget, Wisconsin’s Technical College System was to move to 100% performance based state funding by 2019-20. JFC voted to cap the performance based portion of the system’s funds at 30% by 2016-17.

Street Car
JFC also passed a measure that would bar utility ratepayers from having to bear any costs for a proposed streetcar in Milwaukee. Under the JFC proposal, the funding would instead come from Milwaukee taxpayers. This is likely to kill the streetcar proposal.

Super-Size Me
One of the more curious motions of the day was a ban on bans. The successful motion, a reaction to New York City’s ban on super-sized soft drinks, specifically prohibits any city, village, town, or county in Wisconsin from enacting an ordinance that bans, prohibits, or otherwise restricts the sale of food or nonalcoholic beverages based on calorie count, portion size, or other nutritional criteria.