JFC Actions: Week 5

Department of Corrections, Department of Public Instruction, Agency Mergers, Medical Assistance


Wednesday, May 19

Department of Corrections

On May 19, JFC took several actions on the Department of Corrections (DOC), in the areas of Adult Corrections, Community Corrections and Juvenile Corrections. JFC took no action on the governor’s proposal for GPS tracking, thereby adopting the governor’s proposal. The governor proposed to provide just over $600,000 General Purpose Revenue (GPR) and Program Revenue (PR) annually for the supplies and rent costs for GPS tracking that was partially funded for only a portion of 2014-2015, and release funding from the 2013-2015 biennial budget to DOC.

JFC modified the governor’s proposal to delete 60 positions for the third shift staffing in guard towers at correctional institutions across the state. The governor’s budget realized savings of $6.1 million GPR through the staffing reduction. Sen. Tiffany and Rep. Schraa offered a motion to reinstate six positions and funding at the Waupun Correctional Institution. JFC adopted the motion 13-3, with Rep. Hintz joining the majority members in favor. Under the motion, the funding for the 60 positions would be deleted, as proposed by the governor. The six positions at Waupun would be funded only until January 1, 2017.

Retirement Age for Elected Officials and Appointed State Executives

Rep. Kooyenga and Sen. Marklein offered a motion to raise the retirement age for full benefits for elected and appointed officials. For those who initially take office or are appointed after December 31, 2016, the qualified retirement age will be 65, instead of 62. The committee adopted the motion unanimously.

Department of Public Instruction

In a 29-page omnibus motion, JFC made sweeping changes to the governor’s proposal for K-12 education funding in Wisconsin. The committee replaced the governor’s $127 million GPR reduction to K-12 in Wisconsin with $200 million GPR in funding over the next two years. In 2015-2016, public schools would receive $150 per pupil funding increase and $100 per pupil increase in 2016-2017.The motion also raised the state cap on private school vouchers from 1,000 student to one percent of students in each district.

The omnibus also included specific directives for Milwaukee Public Schools. The Milwaukee County Executive would now be able to appoint an individual to take five failing public schools over the next two years and convert them into an independent charter or voucher school. This would continue after 2017, when a special commissioner would be allowed to do the same with no more than five schools every school year after 2017.

The omnibus motion passed 12-4 on party lines.

Thursday May 21

In two omnibus motions for the day, JFC voted on the changes to Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), Department of Safety and Professional Standards (DSPS) and Medical Assistance.

Agency Mergers and WEDC

As anticipated after the governor’s request, JFC voted on May 21, to remove the proposed agency mergers from the governor’s budget. The governor proposed to create a new Department of Financial Institutions and Professional Standards from the Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) and the DSPS. In addition, the governor proposed to consolidate WEDC and the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) into the Forward Wisconsin Development Authority.

In addition to removing the agency mergers, JFC took several other actions related to DSPS and WEDC. JFC rejected the governor’s proposal to increase the credential periods from two to four years for most professional credentials issued by DSPS. JFC adopted the governor’s proposal to transfer the Veterinary Examining Board from DSPS to the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

JFC members voted 12-4 to take the following actions on WEDC’s proposed budget:

  • Deleted the proposed regional revolving loan fund and the $55 million GPR allocation;
  • Deleted the provisions that would have created additional exceptions to the state open records law;
  • Deleted the provisions that would have modified WEDC’s reporting requirements for grant and loan recipients;
  • Removed the Governor from the WEDC Board;
  • Authorized WEDC’s board to delegate any power or duty to an employee of the Corporation or to a committee established by the Board;
  • Required WEDC’s Board of Directors to revise its unassigned balance policy, to establish its target unassigned balance on June 30 of each year, to be an amount equal to two-twelfths of its estimated annual administrative expenditures for that year.
  • Reallocated $12 million GPR of the WEDC unassigned balance, placing $11.250 million GPR into a JFC supplemental appropriations (which is likely to be allocated toward other programs, possibly for Historic Tax Credits) and allocated $750,000 for the following:
  • $250,000 GPR to the Midwest Energy Research Consortium, to be used to support the growth, training, and research and development of private companies in the energy, power, and control sectors that are headquartered in WI;
  • $250,000 GPR grant to Prosperity Southwest Wisconsin, for a new revolving loan program in the southwest region of the state to promote regional economic development and entrepreneurial start-up activities;
  • $150,000 GPR for the Northcentral Technical College, to purchase commercial stoves, ovens, and other equipment for a Culinary Arts program;
  • $100,000 GPR for the Marathon County Economic Development Corporation, to be used for a revolving loan fund to support minority owned businesses in Marathon County.

Medical Assistance 

For the final item of the day, JFC members took up one of the largest programs in the state’s budget: medical assistance (MA) in another omnibus motion. Health care benefits have been taking up more and more of general purpose revenues (GPR) over the last decade and Governor Walker made some bold suggestions to rein in costs.

JFC made several changes to the governor’s proposal for the SeniorCare Program. Governor Walker proposed a significant change for participants in the Wisconsin SeniorCare program, one of Wisconsin’s most well-known benefits. SeniorCare helps the elderly purchase prescription drugs at a lower cost and the federal government offers a similar program, Medicare Part D. The governor recommended, as a condition of eligibility to the SeniorCare program, that seniors must first enroll in Medicare Part D. If they qualified for Medicare Part D, they would participate in the federal program in lieu of SeniorCare. Estimated savings for the initial plan is about $100 million when all monies – GPR, federal (FED) and program revenue (PR) – are combined. Because of the popularity of this program, the Joint Finance Committee committed to the additional spending and deleted the governor’s recommendation. 

Agreeing with the governor, JFC recommitted the state’s participation in disproportionate share hospital payments (DSH). These hospitals serve a significant amount of medical assistance and low-income patients and these payments help offset uncompensated care. JFC voted to appropriate $70 million (GPR and FED) over the biennium for DSH payments. 

Governor Walker proposed moving to a prospective payment system (PPS) for federally qualified health centers (FQHCs). FQHCs are community health centers that provide care to underserved populations and their supporters immediately opposed the changes, which meant significant cuts to their budgets. JFC decided to delay full implementation and phase the new payment system in over the next four years.