PECFA, Fast Forward Program, State Parks, Confluence Project, DOJ
The Joint Finance Committee continues to work their way through the governor’s budget. Below are the highlights of JFC votes from last week. Read about JFC’s from this week here.
Petroleum Environmental Cleanup Fund Award (PECFA)
JFC passed a motion that would delay the governor’s proposed sunset of eligibility for petroleum environmental cleanup fund awards (PECFA), dependent on certain specifications. PECFA awards began in 1988 in Wisconsin and are used to reimburse owners portions of cleanup costs for petroleum product storage systems, commonly found at gas stations and home heating oil systems.
The governor’s budget proposed sunsetting eligibility for the PECFA program if a person had not notified the DNR, the agency which administers the reimbursements and cleanup, by February 3, 2015, of the discharge, or if a person had not submitted a claim for reimbursement before July 1, 2017. The governor’s proposal did maintain base funding for PECFA awards of $4.55 million annually from the segregated petroleum inspection fund.
Representative Dean Knudson (R-Hudson) put forward a motion, which passed unanimously, to change the sunset dates on the PECFA program. Under the new motion, PECFA reimbursement would be denied if a person has not notified DNR of the discharge before July 1, 2017 and would not be eligible for a claim if not received before July 1, 2020. The motion also requires an owner or operator to submit their claim for reimbursement within 180 days after incurring costs, or by the first day of the seventh month after the effective date of this budget. This requirement was also included in the governor’s proposal, however it stipulated this would only be the case when submittal of costs was at least $50,000.
Expansion of Wisconsin Fast Forward
The governor’s budget included a proposal to expand the Wisconsin Fast Forward program, which is administered by the Department of Workforce Development (DWD). The governor’s proposal reallocated $3 million GPR annually from the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to DWD, to eliminate the DPI funding for grants to school districts for career and technical education. Under the governor’s proposal, DWD would be given the flexibility to administer a career and technical education incentive grants programs to provide grants to school districts for programs that focus on mitigating industry workforce shortages and student assistance to go into these industries.
JFC voted 15-1, with the single no vote coming from Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison), to modify the governor’s recommendations. JFC voted to transfer $3 million annually to DWD from DPI, but maintained the funding be used for the career and technical education grants to school districts, as under current DPI program.
The governor’s budget proposed to delete $4.67 million GPR annually and 44.68 positions for operation of state parks and recreation areas and provide $3.22 million parks account SEG annually and 44.68 positions. The net reduction would be $1.4 million annually. In addition, his budget proposed to increase annual state park and forest vehicle admission fees by $3 and nightly state park and forest camping fees by $2.
JFC voted to adopt the governor’s recommendation to delete the $4.6 mill GPR annually and 44.68 positions for operation of state parks and recreation areas but provided $1.44 million parks SEG annually to restore overall base-level funding for state park and trail operations. In addition, JFC directed DNR to study and report on options for additional revenues by December 1, 2016.
JFC also adopted the governor’s recommendation to increase annual state park and forest vehicle admission fees by $3 and increase resident and non-resident daily and bus admissions by $1. They also specified the department issue a state trail pass for a fee of $5 for a daily and $25 for an annual state trail pass. All fee increases, and vehicle admission and trail passes fees would be effective January 1, 2016.
For campsites in state parks, JFC eliminated the references to Type A, B and C campsites and specified that base fees for a campsite in Wisconsin be not less than $15 but not more than $20 per night for residents and not less than $19 but not more than $25 per night for nonresidents, to be determined by the department secretary. JFC also specified the DNR secretary may raise or lower the nightly camping rates by $5 above or below these ranges and administrative rules are not required for action taken by the department to implement these fees. Lastly, JFC specified that the additional nightly camping fee for electricity be $10 rather than the current $5.
The motion was adopted 12 to 4.
Eau Claire Confluence Development Project
The governor’s budget included a continuing appropriation of $15 million GPR in 2016-17 for the Eau Claire Confluence Development Project. The project is an $85 million development project in downtown Eau Claire that would include a community arts center and student dorm. JFC voted 12-4 to delete the appropriation from the budget, but also required the Department of Administration (DOA) to consult with the project developer and report to the Building Commission by June 30, 2017 on the status of the project’s need for state financial assistance. A vote to provide funding for the project through GPR-supported bonding failed 4-12.
Governor Walker’s budget recommendation provides the attorney general authority to appoint, in the unclassified service, a solicitor general and no more than three deputy solicitors general. Further, the governor’s recommendation provides the Attorney General authority to assign assistant attorneys general to assist the Solicitor General. In executive action, JFC approved 14-2, with no votes from Reps. Taylor and Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh), the creation of this office. In a slight revision to the governor’s recommendation, the committee voted to eliminate four vacant positions in the agency in exchange for creating these four new appointed positions.
In the United States, 42 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have a person in their attorney general offices carrying out the duties of a solicitor general, overseeing civil appellate practice and in some cases criminal appellate practice.