Policy Items & Earmarks in the Budget

Each budget cycle, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB), releases an analysis of non-fiscal policy items in the draft budget. This year the LFB is also required to release a list of earmarks contained in the budget.

Policy Items
The LFB identified 58 policy items in the budget bill.

Criteria the LFB used to identify non-fiscal policy items included:
(1) generally, the item has no state fiscal effect;
(2) if there is a state fiscal effect associated with an item, the policy implications of the provision outweigh any potential fiscal effect;
(3) the item has been, or is, the subject of separate, non-budget legislation;
(4) the items is one that typically would be reviewed by a standing committee of the Legislature; and
(5) the provision could be accomplished without statutory directive, such as reports, studies, and audits.

The JFC has already said it will remove 12 of the items in the list from the budget.

Earmarks
Under section 13.95(1r) of the statutes, as created by 2011 Wisconsin Act 220, the LFB must prepare an earmark transparency report on each biennial budget bill and on each amendment to the bill.

For purposes of the earmark report, the statutes define an earmark as a provision that does either of the following:
(1) authorizes or requires the payment of state moneys to a specific beneficiary or beneficiaries in a manner not determined by laws of general applicability for the selection of the beneficiary or beneficiaries; or
(2) creates or modifies a tax deduction, credit, exclusion, or exemption that applies to a specific beneficiary or beneficiaries in a manner not determined by laws of general applicability for the selection of the beneficiary or beneficiaries.

The list does not include projects or programs that would be funded for a state government purpose, such as University of Wisconsin campus facilities or state highway projects.

In this, the first ever such report, the LFB identifies 15 earmarks currently in the bill.

As the budget bill moves forward, JFC is prohibited by statute from voting to recommend passage of the biennial budget bill or an amendment to the bill until LFB has distributed an earmark report to the Legislature.
 

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