Gov. Scott Walker signed the $70 billion 2013-15 Wisconsin biennial budget into law on June 30, 2013. Walker vetoed 57 items in the budget, which reduced GPR spending by $856,000 over the biennium.
The budget signed by Gov. Walker varies from the budget passed by the legislature thanks to the expansive veto powers granted to Wisconsin’s chief executive in the state constitution. Walker partially or completely vetoed 57 items in the budget including a controversial provision that would have allowed bail bondsmen and bounty hunters to set up shop in Wisconsin for the first time since 1979 and a section that would have kicked the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism off the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.
Walker indicated that many of the items he vetoed should be subject to further analysis. A full list of vetoes and the governor’s comments on them is available here.
In his signing statement, the governor highlights the following budget items:
Income Tax Relief
- Provides the largest tax cut in 14 years by driving income tax rates down for all filers, with the largest cuts aimed at taxpayers making between $15,000 and $50,000 amounting to around a 5 percent reduction for these filers. The median family of four making $80,607 will save $345 in this budget and $1,725 over the next decade in income tax savings. All Wisconsin families will keep more of the money they earn.
- Simplifies Wisconsin’s tax code by eliminating 17 little-used credits, reducing the number of income tax brackets from five to four and adopting federal treatment of several provisions. Tax simplification reduces the state’s compliance burden on individuals and businesses, improving Wisconsin’s business climate.
- Cuts total income taxes by $650 million over the biennium; the beginning balance for the biennium is $670 million. In this way, the tax cut is paid for by sound fiscal stewardship. The state’s taxpayers reap the benefit and the state can compete for business.
Growing Our Economy
- Provides access to seed capital for growing businesses through the seed accelerator program and maintains a commitment to promoting tourism businesses in Wisconsin. Immediately adds $36 million in additional economic development tax credits and repeals the $47.5 million lifetime cap on the angel investment tax credit program.
- Allocates $118.6 million over the biennium for economic development efforts administered by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) and enhances efficiency of WEDC’s economic development programs by strengthening the corporation’s auditing, reporting and procurement standards.
Provides $2.5 million to the Wisconsin Development Reserve Fund to leverage $11.25 million for loan guarantees in support of the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority’s (WHEDA) Transform Milwaukee initiative.
- Provides $25 million GPR in fiscal year 2013-14 for an investment capital program passed in separate legislation.
Developing Our Workforce
- Provides increased opportunities for workers through Wisconsin’s technical colleges through the use of performance funding to focus on job placement and programs in high demand fields.
- Continues to work to increase employment, through a variety of initiatives that build on the successful features of past programs, such as the Transform Milwaukee jobs initiative and the Trial Employment Match Program (TEMP).
- Invests $31 million all funds into expanding and improving work training services for individuals with the lowest incomes, while requiring able-bodied adults without dependents to meet federal work or employment training requirements in order to receive FoodShare benefits.
Rural Access to Care and Workforce Development
- With an aging population and increased health care access, Wisconsin faces a physician shortage in rural and underserved areas. This budget provides grants to rural hospitals to provide residency slots to alleviate the primary physician shortage to address the primary health care shortage in Wisconsin by increasing the size and scope of rural medical programs at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) and the UW-Madison Medical School.
- MCW will build two new campuses in the Wausau and Green Bay areas.
- UW will expand the medical school’s Wisconsin Academy for Rural Medicine (WARM) and Training in Urban Medicine and Public Health (TRIUMPH) programs using $1.5 million of program revenue.
- Funds additional students at the Marquette Dental School to provide more dental care in Wisconsin.
- Provides $3.75 million to fund increased access to the UW Carbone Cancer Center’s cutting-edge molecular imaging.
- In addition, provides grants to rural hospitals to create residency slots and help fund the continuation of those residency positions in high-need medical specialties.
- Provides $380 million in new state funds for public education and quality educational opportunities for students, including nearly $300 million for K-12 public schools.
- Provides an additional $250,000 over the biennium for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) grants.
- Provides $2.8 million over the biennium to continue and expand the PALS reading screener to ensure teachers can measure basic reading skills for all students from four-year-old kindergarten through 2nd grade.
- Provides $13.6 million for a new Educator Effectiveness system for evaluating teachers.
- Provides $1 million to expand Teach for America’s presence in Milwaukee.
- Implements a cap on tuition at the UW System, the first two-year tuition freeze in the history of the UW system.
- The University of Wisconsin will fund $2 million to support the start-up of a UW Flexible Option – an on-line learning and degree option that will transform higher education.
Transforming Education through School Choice
- Expands school choice options statewide to allow low-income families to choose the appropriate educational environment for their children: 500 students in the first year and 1,000 students in the second year for families below 185 percent of the federal poverty level will be allowed to participate.
- Creates a new tuition tax deduction of up to $4,000 a year for K-8 students and $10,000 a year for parents with high school students. This will cost $30 million a year.
- Keeps property tax increases under control. The median value home is expected to have an increase of just less than 1 percent on both the December 2013 and December 2014 tax bills.
- Continues to protect property taxpayers by maintaining levy limits on counties, municipalities and technical college districts, limiting levy increases to the rate of growth due to new construction.
- Provides $29.7 million over the biennium in added funding for property tax credits. Encourages local government cooperation by removing a disincentive for contracted services between municipalities under the expenditure restraint program.
- Maintains the state’s commitment to counties and municipalities by funding shared revenue at current law levels.
- Creates an electronic benefit card, which will initially be used for Wisconsin Works benefits, and then to support the child care parent pay initiative.
- Creates a program, funded at $200,000 GPR annually, to reimburse local governments for consulting services provided by private businesses to establish efficiency initiatives, or “lean programs.”
- Provides additional flexibility and staffing for the state building program at the Department of Administration to improve oversight of the building program.
- Designates single prime contracting, which streamlines relationships between the state, general contractors, and mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire protection contractors, as the default project delivery method for large state building projects.
- Allows the Department of Administration and Building Commission to sell stateowned real property, with legislative approval, in situations where it makes sense to do so for taxpayers, as well as the State.
- Reduces executive branch agency positions by 450 FTE positions during the 2013-15 biennium, in an effort to further streamline state government.
- Increases expenditure authority at the Department of Employee Trust Funds to fund the modernization and technology integration project, which will streamline and provide additional services to participants in the Wisconsin Retirement System.
- Increases the required break in service after retirement from 30 to 75 days for new rehires. Requires new rehires, who are working more than two-thirds of full time, to stop annuity payments, rejoin the Wisconsin Retirement System and earn additional years of service.
- Promotes a wellness program to improve the health of state employees.
- Requires that the Group Insurance Board offer a health care coverage option that consists of a high-deductible health plan coupled with a health savings account to help employees become cost-conscious consumers of their own health care.
- Creates an Office of the Inspector General in the Department of Children and Families to conduct fraud prevention, program integrity and audit activities for all department-administered programs, including the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare.
Investing in Infrastructure
- Invests a total of $6.4 billion in Wisconsin’s transportation infrastructure.
- Provides a total of $517 million for continued construction of the Zoo Interchange and I-94 North-South Corridor. Of this amount, $486 million will go to keep the Zoo Interchange reconstruction project on time.
- Invests $226 million in the Hoan Bridge and $15.9 million in the state’s harbor system.
- Provides $67 million above base amounts for state highway rehabilitation.
- Provides an increase of $52 million for routine maintenance agreements with counties.
- Provides $52 million for Freight Rail Preservation over the biennium.
- Uses a one-time transfer of $4.3 million of program revenue for a broadband grant program, administered by the Public Service Commission, to increase broadband access and capacity and expand high-speed Internet service access.
Medicaid Entitlement Reform
- Protects the state’s most vulnerable citizens by investing $751 million of new GPR to preserve the health care safety net provided by Medicaid, BadgerCare Plus and SeniorCare while implementing additional program reforms to ensure these programs remain sustainable and strong into the future.
- Reduces the number of uninsured individuals by over 224,000 or nearly 50 percent by providing Medicaid coverage to children and adults living in poverty, while protecting taxpayers by rejecting the unsustainable federal expansion mandated by the Affordable Care Act. The budget provides $54 million all-funds to county income maintenance consortia to assist residents in obtaining health care coverage.
- Strengthens the Office of the Inspector General in the Department of Health Services by establishing a permanent administrative structure. To date, the work of the office saves taxpayers $23 on average for every dollar of administrative cost.
Investing in Wisconsin’s Veterans
- Extends the Veterans and Surviving Spouse Property Tax Credit to un-remarried surviving spouses, whose spouse died of a service-connected disability.
- Adds more than 100 new full-time direct-care staff at veterans’ facilities.
- Increases funding to veterans organizations providing assistance to veterans and their families.
- Extends the Wisconsin GI Bill to veterans who have established residency in the state by being here for five consecutive years.
- Provides an additional $5.3 million in state funds for the Veterans Trust Fund; improving its solvency.
Mental Health Initiatives
- Invests $28.9 million in state funds for mental health programs to expand services to individuals living with mental illness.
Protecting Victims of Domestic Violence
- $10.6 million in state funds will be used to partner with Children’s Hospital and the Sojourner Family Peace Center on the Family Justice Center project in Milwaukee to provide services and shelter to families in crisis.
- Provides $560,000 to the Domestic Abuse Intervention Services Center (DAIS) in Madison to help construct a new facility.
- Provides $2 million in additional funding for counties to use in establishing and continuing restorative justice programs promoting drug abuse treatment.
- Provides stable funding of $2 million annually for Sexual Assault Victim Services center grants. Protecting the Innocent and Seeking Justice for Victims
- Institutes a DNA at Arrest initiative to promote a more effective, efficient and certain investigative process to find criminals, exonerate innocents and comfort victims.
- Creates a GPS tracking program to protect victims from violent accused abusers.
- Provides additional resources for the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.