Hamilton Political Tidbits – June 9, 2017

Political Tidbits - June 9, 2017
Hamilton Consulting Group
 June 9, 2017
Wisconsin political news for clients and colleagues.
 
After several weeks of smooth sailing, JFC's action abruptly stopped this week, as the Senate and Assembly remain at odds on education, property taxes and transportation. This week, JFC cancelled their meetings, leaving just three weeks left for the legislature to pass a budget before the June 30 deadline. This Tidbits covers last week's JFC executive session as well as updates on sticking points like education and transportation. Budget meetings aside, JFC will be in next week to take up (and expected to reject) the proposed contracts to self-insure state employees. Also in this edition, Wisconsin potentially joins 29 other states in calling a constitutional convention, Gov. Walker signs high capacity well legislation and Wisconsin Democrats hold their annual state convention. We also welcome our new Communications and Government Relations Manager Paige Scobee to the Hamilton team!
 
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.

JFC Meets May 31, Postpones This Week's Meetings
 
This week, the budget process came to halt, as the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) remains at an impasse on education, transportation and property taxes.  After the long Memorial Day weekend, JFC met only once last week on Wednesday, May 31. As the Assembly and Senate tried to smooth over their differences on the remaining items, JFC cancelled this week's Tuesday and Thursday meetings.
 
Assembly Republicans released an education plan on Tuesday that cuts property taxes, but not as much as Gov. Scott Walker's budget recommended. Walker has threatened to veto a budget that does not cut property taxes below the 2014 level, and Sen. Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said the Senate would stick to Walker's plan. The Assembly's transportation plan has also yet to gain traction in the Senate. Fitzgerald hinted recently that the Senate could take up their own budget, an unprecedented move in the history of the Joint Finance Committee. Lawmakers have just three weeks left to approve a budget before the June 30 deadline.
 
At the time of this writing, the next JFC meeting to take up the budget has not been scheduled. However, JFC will be in next Thursday June 15, to act on the state's pending contracts to self-insure state employees.
 
 
LFB Releases Transportation Fund Memo

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) released a memo last week revealing a $94 million increase in the balance of the state's transportation fund. LFB had originally estimated the 2017-19 biennium-ending fund balance at $8.4 million. However, mainly due to projections of higher fuel tax revenues and lower debt service costs, LFB re-estimated the fund balance at $101.8 million. 

Gov. Scott Walker's budget had estimated the opening transportation balance at $107.6 million, but the new LFB memo re-estimated the opening balance at $145.4 million. According to the memo, the increase of $37.8 million was due primarily to debt service savings, increased motor fuel tax and vehicle registration revenues in the 2015-16 transportation fund.

 
JFC to Vote on Self-Insurance Contracts Next Week

As expected, the Joint Finance Committee objected to the Department of Employee Trust Funds' signed contracts to self-insure the state employee's health plan. JFC's passive review of the contracts required an objection, otherwise the state would be able to move forward. The three-year contracts include contracts with a statewide/nationwide vendor and four regional vendors.

The governor's 2017-19 budget assumes the state will achieve $60 million in savings from the move to self-insurance ($20 million general purpose revenue (GPR) in 2017-18 and $40 million GPR in 2018-19). Walker's budget in turn invests the savings in K-12 education and uses it to offset increased salary and fringe benefits of UW-System employees.

 
Assembly Republicans Release K-12 Budget Plan

On Tuesday, June 6, Assembly Republicans released their own K-12 funding plan for the 2017-19 state budget. The proposal increases general school aids and lowers property taxes, but not to the same level as Governor Walker's plan. The governor has said he would veto a budget that increases property taxes above 2014 levels. Sen. Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said the Senate would stick with Walker's plan. The Joint Finance Committee cancelled both executive sessions originally planned for this week as they work out solutions between the two chambers on K-12 funding and other issues.
 
 
DHS Submits Medicaid Waiver

The Department of Health Services (DHS) submitted the "BadgerCare Reform Demonstration Waiver" to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Wednesday for review. The waiver essentially amends the Section 115 Demonstration Waiver and would primarily make changes to the BadgerCare childless adult (CLA) population in the state's Medicaid program. The changes include substance abuse screening and drug testing, monthly premiums, healthy behavior incentives and a 48-month eligibility limit.
 
 
Bills of Note: Constitutional Convention

The Assembly is set to vote next week on a resolution that calls for a constitutional convention. SJR 18/AJR 21, authored by Sen. Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield) and Rep. Dan Knodl (R-Germantown), proposes that Wisconsin apply to Congress for the calling of a constitutional convention to create an amendment requiring the federal government to operate under a balanced budget. Under the amended version of the bill, the state Senate Chief Clerk and Assembly Chief Clerk would forward the resolution to the U.S. Senate President and the House Speaker. The resolution would be valid until a convention convenes or the Wisconsin legislature rescinds the resolution.

 
Signed by Governor: High Capacity Wells
Gov. Scott Walker signs 2017 Wisconsin Act 10.

On Thursday, June 1, Gov. Scott Walker signed into law 2017 Wisconsin Act 10 that changes statutes regarding the repair, replacement, reconstruction or transfer of high capacity wells.
 
The legislation, authored by Sen. Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) eliminates the need for the Department of Natural Resources to provide additional approval for an owner of an already approved high capacity well to repair, replace, reconstruct or transfer the well. The bill passed the legislature early this session, after stalling in committee in previous sessions.
 

Wisconsin Democrats Hold State Democratic Convention
U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin addresses the 2017 state Democratic convention.

Democrats in Wisconsin gathered on June 2-3 in Middleton for the annual state Democratic Convention. Over 1,000 attendees met to hear from the state's Democratic leaders.
 
The convention focused on recovering from Democratic losses in the 2016 election and energizing supporters for the upcoming races in 2018, including elections for governor and for incumbent U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin's seat. The unifying message among speakers was anti-Trump and hopeful for more Democratic success in 2018.
 

Welcome, Paige Scobee!

Hamilton Consulting Group is pleased to announce Paige Scobee as our new Communications and Government Relations Manager! Paige started as an intern last fall and officially started full-time on May 22.

Paige graduated from University of Wisconsin-Madison in journalism and Latin. While in school, Paige wrote for The Observatory, and was a contributing writer for the Badger Herald. Using her journalism experience, she manages Hamilton Consulting's biweekly e-newsletter, Political Tidbits. She also coordinates the firm's social media accounts and assists with client communications.

In addition to managing the firm's communication methods, Paige also conducts policy research, coordinates legislative days, attends legislative committee hearings and tracks legislation.

"I have really enjoyed working at Hamilton in my past year as an intern, and I'm so excited to start taking on my new full-time role. I look forward to working with the Hamilton team and clients and kicking off my government relations career here in Madison." - Paige Scobee




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