Fiscal Bureau Issues Budget Analysis; Finance Committee Schedules Agency and Public Hearings

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau has released its plain-language summary (tables, agency-by-agency) of Gov. Tony Evers’ (D) executive budget proposal for the 2023-25 fiscal biennium. The document explains, in plain narrative terms along with simple financial tables, how state agencies, programs, and policies currently work and how the budget would affect them. Legislators rely on this document and will typically wait to begin altering or replacing the executive budget until it is released.

Budget Committee Announces Public Hearings and Comment Process

The Joint Committee on Finance (JFC) is responsible for managing the budget process in the Wisconsin Legislature. JFC has invited four cabinet secretaries from the Evers Administration to testify and answer questions from the committee about their agency’s budget:

  • March 28: Secs. Craig Thompson (Transportation) and Kevin Carr (Corrections)
  • March 30: Secs. Blumenfeld (Administration) and Hereth (Safety and Professional Services)

JFC will also hold a series of four public hearings throughout April where members of the public will have the opportunity to address the committee:

  • April 5: Waukesha County Expo Center
  • April 11: UW-Eau Claire, Davies Student Center
  • April 12: Wilderness Resort, Glacier Canyon Conference Center
  • April 26: Lakeland Union High School

The in-person public hearings will each be held from 10 AM until 5 PM. Additionally, Wisconsinites can submit comments about the budget to the committee via an online portal or by email. Many individual legislators are also scheduling budget listening sessions in their own districts.

JFC Co-Chairs Not Supportive of Allowing Local Sales Tax Increases

Rep. Mark Born (R-Beaver Dam), co-chair of JFC, said at a March 1 media event that the final version of the 2023-25 budget likely will not include Gov. Evers’ budget proposal on local sales taxes. Last month, Gov. Evers announced a budget proposal to permit larger municipalities and all counties to each impose an additional 0.5 percent sales tax. In Milwaukee County, it would allow an additional one percent county sales tax with revenue divided evenly between the city and county.

The governor’s budget also proposed increasing state aid to municipalities and counties by dedicating 20 percent of the state’s sales tax revenue to shared revenue. The revenue would fund the state’s existing aid payments while providing significant increases in public safety and general aid to local governments. Rep. Born did not wholly endorse or reject this idea, saying “We’re going to be looking for innovation and for really how this money funds the future of what local governments need to provide. So we’re not interested in funding the same old systems with just new money. We want reforms. We want improvements that really fund the future of what are really essential services that local governments have to provide.”

Speaking alongside Rep. Born, JFC co-chair Sen. Howard Marklein (R-Spring Green) mentioned Milwaukee’s public employee pensions as an area where the Legislature would look for reforms in exchange for increased funding from the state.

As to Gov. Evers’ proposal to provide $290 million for improvements to the Milwaukee Brewers stadium, Rep. Born said that while many people would like to see the team stay in Wisconsin, “we’ve got to make sure the plan makes sense for taxpayers.” Sen. Marklein said Republican legislators have not discussed the issue in caucus yet and that, from his perspective, “my district is a long ways away from Milwaukee, and the bulk of the feedback I’m hearing on that is negative. … it’s just hard to, you know, convince a farmer in Fennimore that this is going to be a great investment.”