June 6 – Senate & Assembly Reach Compromise on Transportation; Other JFC Votes Include PSC, OCI, DOJ

The focus of the June 6 executive session was one of this session’s (and previous budgets’) most contentious issues: transportation. After deliberations between the Senate and Assembly Republican caucuses, JFC approved a $484 million transportation plan that increases fees but does not increase the gas tax, as proposed by Gov. Evers. The transportation motion, approved 12-4 along party lines, would:

  • Increase vehicle title fees by $95 to $164.50. (Increases revenue by $273 million over the biennium.)
  • Increase automobile registration fees by $10 to $85. (Increases revenue by $65 million over the biennium.)
  • Set light-truck registration fees for all trucks under 10,000 lbs at $100. (Increases revenue by $18 million over the biennium.)
  • Modify the definition of a hybrid-electric vehicle to mean a vehicle that can use both electricity and gasoline or diesel fuel. (Increases revenue by $11 million over the biennium)
  • Provide $2.5 million for the Department of Transportation (DOT) to conduct a mileage-based fee study and report to JFC an implementation plan by 2023. JFC can approve, modify or deny the mileage-based fee, and if approved, the fee would be administered by DOT’s Division of Innovative Transportation Finance Systems.
  • Prohibit DOT from using more state patrol operations for the lieutenant governor in 2019-21 than were used in 2017-19.
  • Provide a 10 percent increase in county and municipal transportation aids for a total of $122 million annually for counties and $384 million for municipalities.
  • Provide $90 million GPR on a onetime basis for a Local Roads Improvement Program.
  • Require DOT to provide up to $1.5 million for intermodal freight facilities grants.
  • Provide $993 million in combined state and federal funding for the State Highway Rehabilitation Program and $283 million for the Major Highway Development Program.
  • Create an Office of Innovative Program Delivery in DOT and require DOT to administer a design-build pilot program. Allow DOT to promulgate administrative rules to implement the program and include an exemption to statutory limitations on emergency rules.
  • Limit local authority to regulate nonmetallic mining at quarry operations.

Outside of the DOT budget, JFC voted on the use for the remaining Volkswagen settlement funds. Uses of the Volkswagen settlement funds are limited to specific eligible mitigation actions. Proposals from the governor and Republican legislators recommended using the settlement funds for electric vehicle infrastructure. However, JFC opted to use the money to require the Department of Administration to provide $3 million dollars in grants for the replacement of school buses with more energy efficient buses. The rest of the $25 million remaining in Volkswagen settlement funds could be used for purposes under current law, including the replacement of state vehicles and for the transit capital assistance program.

Under the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI), JFC approved the governor’s recommendation to provide $72,273,700 GPR (and $127,726,300 FED) in 2020-21 to fund estimated reinsurance payments for under the Wisconsin Healthcare Stability Plan. The committee did not provide funding for 1.07 PR positions, beginning in 2019-20, to administer the program, as requested by Gov. Evers. JFC Co-chair Rep. Nygren argued there are open positions at OCI and additional positions to administer the program are not needed.

JFC also voted on the Department of Justice budget on June 6. The committee approved additional crime lab analysts, funded assistant attorneys general pay progression, continued to fund beat patrol grants, and provided additional funding for treatment alternatives and diversion programs for substance abuse. These provisions in the Republican motion were largely the same or slightly less than Gov. Evers’s proposals, and some were funded differently than the governor recommended.

Next, JFC took up the Public Service Commission (PSC) budget. Most items related to the PSC had already been removed by JFC in their May 9 executive session. On that date, JFC removed the governor’s proposals to:

  • Create an Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy.
  • Specify that PSC may require energy utilities to spend more than 1.2 percent of annual operating revenues to fund the Focus on Energy program, which provides incentives to utility customers to reduce energy consumption and increase efficiency.
  • Transfer the administration of high voltage environmental impact fees for transmission lines from the Department of Administration to PSC.

In the June 6 executive session, the were only two PSC provisions left for committee votes. First was the governor’s proposal for $300,000 PR annually for additional intervenor compensation (typically received by the Citizens Utility Board advocacy group). JFC chose instead to provide a $100,000 annual increase in intervenor compensation. Second, the committee voted to use $22 million FED annually for broadband expansion grants. (JFC approved another PSC provision in their June 11 executive session.)

Related to taxes, JFC declined to take up the governor’s proposal for additional tax auditing positions in the Department of Revenue. JFC took up the remaining tax provisions in their executive session on June 13.

Also on June 6, the committee took up:

Kickapoo Reserve Management Board
Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation