Hamilton Political Tidbits – July 10, 2017

Political Tidbits - July 10, 2017
Hamilton Consulting Group
 July 10, 2017
Wisconsin political news for clients and colleagues.
Last week it was all about fireworks and parades, but July 1 was the start of the new fiscal year and there is still no state budget. The budget process remains at a stalemate, as the Assembly, Senate and the governor grapple over transportation funding. This Tidbits has an update on the budget negotiations. Plus, Wisconsin businesses oppose legislation that increases property taxes, the state Supreme Court rules on medical malpractice lawsuits, and the latest Marquette Poll results.
If you wish to receive additional information about a topic addressed in Tidbits, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the Hamilton Consulting Team.

Wisconsin Budget in Limbo

The completion of the 2017-19 Wisconsin biennial budget remains in limbo. The new fiscal year started on July 1, and with no new budget, the state continues to operate under last fiscal year's budget. The Joint Committee on Finance (JFC) last met on June 15, and has not set another meeting date to take up the final issue sets in the budget - including three big items: K-12 education, taxes and transportation. After several weeks of bottleneck, transportation appears to be the outstanding sticking point.

Medicaid Ends Fiscal Year with a $325 Million Balance

Now for some positive budget news as the legislature works through budget negotiations: On July 5, the Department of Health Services (DHS) provided the Joint Committee on Finance (JFC) members an updated status of the state's Medicaid program, projecting the program will end the fiscal year with a $325 million General Purpose Revenue (GPR) balance. The balance is $5 million GPR less than what was projected in March by the department, but is still on target for what was assumed in the 2017-19 budget.

Wisconsin Businesses Oppose Property Tax Increase Bills

On June 29, The Assembly Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on a pair of bills that would increase property taxes for Wisconsin businesses. Assembly Bills 386 and 387, authored by Rep. Robert Brooks (R-Saukville) and Sen. Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville), aim to close the "dark store loophole" that claims businesses are using old, run-down, "dark" properties as comparable value to modern, occupied properties. In reality, the bills would make it easier for assessors to unfairly raise property taxes on businesses.

Appeals Court Tosses Medical Malpractice Caps for Noneconomic Damages

In a July 5 opinion, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, District 1 (Milwaukee County), found the statutory $750,000 cap on noneconomic damages arising out of medical malpractice claims was unconstitutional. The court found the cap was "an unfair and illogical burden only on catastrophically injured patients, thus denying them equal protection of the law."
OSD To Enhance Fast Forward Grant Program

The Wisconsin Office of Skills Development (OSD) announced this week that the Fast Forward grant program will release two ongoing Grant Program Announcements (GPAs) starting July 1. OSD, which operates under the Department of Workforce Development (DWD), will release GPAs in both the Small Business Occupations and All Sectors categories that will remain open all year. OSD will award Fast Forward Grants in each category at the end of each quarter.
Marquette Law School June Poll Released

On June 28, Marquette University (MU) Law School released its latest poll that compiled interviews with 800 registered voters in Wisconsin between June 22-25.
President Donald Trump's approval ratings remained largely the same as they did in MU's March survey. Gov. Scott Walker's approval rating increased to 48 percent. His disapproval rating was 48 percent, making this poll the first time since October 2014 that Walker has achieved a net approval rating.

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