After weeks of optimistically waiting for new revenue numbers from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB), legislators were faced with the bleak reality: there is no new revenue projected for the 2015-2017 budget. In the LFB memo to the members of the Joint Finance Committee, the LFB director explained that even if there was additional revenue in the current year, economic forecasts project reduced growth rates in 2015-16 and 2016-17 that will offset any growth.
In January, the LFB estimated general fund revenue for the current fiscal year (2014-15) and through the biennium. LFB estimates that in 2015-16 revenues will be $15.15 billion and in 2016-17, revenues will be $15.72 billion.
Legislators had said for several weeks that any additional revenue would be prioritized for K-12 education funding. After the release of the LFB revenue numbers, JFC co-chairs Representative John Nygren (R-Marinette) and Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) issued a statement that K-12 education remains the “top priority” despite the “steady” revenue projections. Several other legislators followed suit and issued similar statements declaring their commitment to investing in K-12 education.
The prioritization of K-12 funding remains the theme in the JFC discussions over the past week, as JFC continue to reference that priority as they work their way through the governor’s budget.
Rep. Nygren and Sen. Darling also announced JFC would reject Governor Walker’s reforms for Family Care and IRIS program, Wisconsin’s long-term care services for the elderly and self-directed long-term care support. The committee chairs stated they wanted a “better plan” for the programs. Later in the budget process, the committee does plan to introduce a motion that will direct the Department of Health Services to work on a reform plan for the programs.