Hamilton Political Tidbits – September 26, 2016

September 26, 2016 - Political Tidbits
Hamilton Consulting Group
 September 26, 2016
Wisconsin political news for clients and colleagues.
There's no debate...this week's Tidbits is packed with the latest in Wisconsin's political news. In this edition, we provide an update on the most recent Marquette Poll, rundown the administration's staff shuffle, and provide the latest on the John Doe leaked documents. Tidbits also covers the budget requests from DOT, DHS, DNR and DOJ after these and other agencies submitted their 2017-2019 requests to Governor Walker. Also, find out more about the EPA's investigation into DNR's records and Wisconsin's decision to join the overtime suit against the Obama administration. Read these stories and more below!
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.

Marquette Law Poll

Presidential race unchanged, Feingold lead increases, Walker disapproval rises

The latest Marquette University (MU) Law School Poll was released on September 21, 2016. The results showed the presidential race largely unchanged, while Russ Feingold's edge on Sen. Ron Johnson increased and Gov. Scott Walker's disapproval rating rose.
In a head-to-head matchup, 44 percent of likely voters backed Hillary Clinton, while 42 percent backed Donald Trump, results largely unchanged from a 45-42 percent matchup in late August. Among registered voters, Clinton received 43 percent, while Trump received 38 percent, compared to 42-37 percent in August.
When the poll pitted Trump and Clinton against third party candidates Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, Clinton maintained her three-point edge among likely voters. Clinton received 41 percent from likely voters, Trump 38 percent, Johnson 12 percent and Stein two percent. Among registered voters, Clinton's lead decreased from five to four points ahead. Neither Johnson nor Stein met the threshold of a 15 percent average in five national public polls to participate in the upcoming presidential debates.
DOA and DHS Announce Staff Shuffle

The Department of Administration (DOA) announced on Sept. 20 that Waylon Hurlburt will be the new state budget director. Hurlburt will replace Michael Heifetz, who is transitioning to the Department of Health Services (DHS) as state Medicaid director. Hurlburt and Heifetz will begin their new positions Oct. 3.

Agency Budget Requests

On Sept. 15, 2016, state agencies submitted their 2017-19 budget requests to Gov. Scott Walker. Over the next several months, the governor will develop his 2017-19 budget based on his priorities and the agencies requests. The Department of Administration's State Budget Office coordinates with the governor's office to develop the governor's budget, which will be presented to the state legislature for consideration in early 2017.

Below is a summary on the budget requests from Department of Transportation, Department of Health Services, Department of Justice, and Department of Natural Resources. For complete coverage of the 2017-19 state budget, be sure to regularly check The Hamilton Consulting Group's 2017-19 State Budget Issue Page.  

Department of Transportation Budget Ignites Funding Debate
As anticipated, the Department of Transportation's (DOT) agency budget request includes no increases to taxes or fees to increase transportation revenues, fulfilling Gov. Walker's directive to the agency. Walker and Assembly Republicans have been publicly at odds over the agency budget request, with Walker stating he is "willing to consider any specific alternatives from Assembly leadership that live within taxpayer means" and with Assembly Republican leadership urging Walker to consider revenue increases, after first "find[ing] every cost savings possible." Senate Majority Leader Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) stated his caucus is not likely to support increasing taxes or fees absent cutting taxes elsewhere in the budget.

More on the transportation budget

DHS Requests Includes $452 Million More for Medicaid

Department of Health Services (DHS) Secretary Linda Seemeyer submitted her agency's budget request to Governor Walker on September 15, 2016. The request asks for a total of $455.5 million in additional general purpose revenue (GPR). In her cover letter, Secretary Seemeyer points out that the funding increases in the budget request are limited to standard cost to continue re-estimates of entitlement programs and operations at their seven direct care facilities. 

Read the highlights from the request
DNR Requests Budget Decrease but Adds CAFO Staff

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) formally submitted their agency budget request to Governor Walker on September 15, 2016. Overall, DNR's all funds budget for the 2017-19 biennium is 2.1 percent less than the 2016-17 fiscal year base doubled. This amounts to about $23.4 million less funding over the biennium. DNR's all funds budget is $1.1 billion over the biennium. According to the request, most of the decrease is due to savings from budgeted versus actual salary levels and one-time costs.

Despite an overall budget decrease, DNR is proposing to increase staff levels for the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) program. DNR reallocated four positions to the CAFO unit, which they cite will assist with the review and evaluation of CAFO permits, provide targeted education and outreach efforts. The additional staff will increase the permit to regional staff ratio to 20 to one, and bring the total staff from 17 to 21. Since February 2016, permits increased from 279 to 285. 
Department of Justice Submits Budget Request

Attorney General Brad Schimel submitted the Department of Justice (DOJ) 2017-19 budget request to Governor Walker on September 15, 2016. DOJ's full request is a 6.2 percent increase over the base 2016-17 fiscal year doubled. This increase amounts to $6.6 million in new general purpose revenue (GPR) over the biennium. The largest cost drivers for the additional funding request are both due to legislation that passed in the 2015-2016 session.

Assembly Republicans Release Legislative Agenda

Assembly Republicans released their plans for the 2017-2018 session in their Forward Agenda in early September. While the November election is still weeks away, the Assembly majority outlined their main goals for next session and beyond. Their policies include simplifying the tax code, addressing the transportation budget shortfall, giving laptops to high school freshman and increasing the police force in Milwaukee.
The Republican Forward Agenda outlines three policy areas: improving the economy, expanding opportunities and building strong families and safe communities. Each section outlines specific policies the Assembly Republicans hope to implement in the new 2017 budget.

Leak of John Doe Documents Being Looked at by AG

In what appears to be a targeted leak aimed at Gov. Walker, the Guardian US published sealed Wisconsin court documents from the controversial John Doe investigation. It has been reported that over six million records were seized in the politically driven investigation. The leak involved 1,350 records.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and other GOP leaders requested Attorney General Brad Schimel appoint a special prosecutor to "investigate this apparent violation of Supreme Court order and state law." The September 15 letter notes that "should this potential crime go unprosecuted it runs the risk of undermining the integrity of our courts and judicial system."

AG Schimel Files Complaint Against New DOL Overtime Rule

On Sept. 20, Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel joined a bipartisan coalition of states in filing a federal complaint against the U.S. Department of Labor's new overtime rule. The complaint cites federal overreach by DOL and asks the court to prevent implementation of the rule before it is scheduled to take effect on Dec. 1.
The rule, released in late May, would double the salary threshold for "white collar" workers who are exempt from overtime pay from $23,660 to $47,476. According to the rule, the new threshold will automatically increase every three years. DOL estimates the threshold will be $51,168 in 2020. Once implemented, the changes would impact 4.2 million salaried workers.
Business groups say the new rule will force millions of salaried professionals to be reclassified as hourly wage workers. They argue that small businesses, nonprofits, and public sector employers will be especially hurt. The U.S Department of Labor estimates businesses will end up paying workers an additional $1.3 billion a year.
EPA Will Inspect Wisconsin DNR Records

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will send federal regulators to Madison to inspect Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) records in October. EPA personnel will investigate DNR files in response to an October 2015 petition by Midwest Environmental Advocates and a group of Wisconsin citizens. The petition claims that DNR officials have not adequately implemented parts of the Clean Water Act. 

Supreme Court Justice Annette Ziegler Announces "Likely" Run for Second Term

Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Annette Ziegler announced she will "likely" run for re-election in April 2017. The conservative justice already claims endorsements of 48 sheriffs and 30 district attorneys.

Among others, her steering committee will include former Gov. Tommy Thompson, former Lt. Gov. Margaret Farrow, and former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice John Wilcox. Her Sept. 20 preannouncement states that her formal announcement will be made later this year. She has over $200,000 cash in hand in her campaign account.

Read more on Justice Ziegler's announcement
Governor Announces Task Force on Opioid Abuse 

This week Gov. Walker announced creation of a Governor's Task Force on Opioid Abuse, to be co-chaired by Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and Rep. John Nygren (R - Marinette). In doing so, Walker ordered the Wisconsin State Health Officer to issue an advisory regarding the serious public health problem that has been created by the recent opioid epidemic and for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) to do what is reasonable and necessary for the prevention and suppression of opioid abuse. The task force is charged with advising and assisting the governor in a coordinated effort to combat the opioid crisis facing the state of Wisconsin and, ultimately, to identify and recommend potential action items for Wisconsin.

Read more about the task force

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News Clips
Clinton and Trump differ on debate prep: New York Times, September 23, 2016.
Clinton leads Trump by three points in Wisconsin: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 21, 2016.
State announces new budget director: Wisconsin State Journal, September 20, 2016.
Gov. Scott Walker creates task force on opioid abuse: Wisconsin State Journal, September 22, 2016
Lawmakers approve sweeping veterans home audit: Wisconsin State Journal, September 21, 2016.
Utilities and Energy 
Alliant Energy breaks ground on town of Beloit power plant: Janesville Gazette Xtra, September 22, 2016.
Proposed Dane County budget includes $2M in solar panels: Wisconsin Public Radio, September 22, 2016.
City rolls out audits, help to cut energy use: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 22, 2016.
Utilities' moves expand wind, natural gas: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 22, 2016.
Headway made in solar garden disputes between Xcel, developers: Minneapolis Star Tribune, September 21, 2016.
'Tectonic shifts' reshape energy landscape: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 19, 2016.
Critics: Wind farm shutdown eased health issues: Green Bay Press Gazette, September 19, 2016.

DNR launching predator study: La Crosse Tribune, September 21, 2016.
EPA to inspect DNR records in Madison: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 21, 2016.
DNR looks to expand CAFO permit staff: Wisconsin Public Radio, September 21, 2016.
Dunn County dairy farm expansion opposed at hearing: Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, September 21,
Farm groups fight EPA on limiting popular weed killer: Wisconsin Public Radio, September 20, 2016.
Michigan mine prompts scrutiny: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 19, 2016.
Wisconsin DNR plans deer predator study: WLUK, September 19, 2016.

DOJ probe leads to country meetings changes: Oshkosh Northwestern, September 22, 2016.
Ziegler socks away $200,000 for court run: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 21, 2016
Ziegler is starting to put together her re-election campaign: Janesville Gazette Xtra, September 20, 2016.
Wisconsin joins overtime pay lawsuit: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 20, 2016.
Under plan, free IDs would be for voting only: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 20, 2016.
AG considers leak investigation: Chippewa Herald, September 19, 2016.

Economic Development
150 jobs coming to the Fox Valley: NBC 26, September 22, 2016.
Unemployment drops in most Wisconsin cities, counties: Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, September 21, 2016.
Walker seeks federal aid for Northwestern Wisconsin farmers: Duluth News Tribune, September 19, 2016.
Report: Milwaukee's fiscal condition improves, but still "broken": Milwaukee Business News, September 19, 2016.
Report: Wisconsin housing market continues to grow: Wisconsin Public Radio, September 19, 2016.

Train derails near Ferryville: WXOW, September 22, 2016.
Senate leader won̢۪t buck Scott Walker on roads: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 22, 2016
GOP rift emerges on Walker roads plan: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 21, 2016.

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