As part of the 2023-25 state budget process, the Legislature has been advancing several bills to implement new programs and policy changes. The Republican-led Legislature has pursued policy language in separate legislation to avoid giving Gov. Tony Evers (D) the opportunity to exercise his powerful partial veto authority, which only applies to appropriations bills such as the state budget.
On June 20, Gov. Evers signed two budget-related bills into law (Acts 11 and 12) and another the following day (Act 13). Several other bills are also being considered and advanced by the Legislature. Acts 11 and 12, on education funding and shared revenue, respectively, are the centerpiece of negotiations between Gov. Evers and Republican legislative leaders.
JFC is expected to hold its final budget session later today, June 22, to consider motions on tax reform, funding for the University of Wisconsin System, the budget stabilization fund, and other miscellaneous provisions.
Act 11: Education Funding
Senate Bill 330, now 2023 Act 11, implements various increases in education funding provided by JFC in the state budget. According to Gov. Evers’ press release issued after signing the bill, the law includes the following changes:
- Providing more than $1 billion in spendable revenue for K-12 education while maintaining two-thirds funding, including a $325 per pupil increase in each fiscal year on revenue limits;
- Setting aside $50 million to improve reading and literacy outcomes for K-12 students [see AB 321/SB 329 below];
- Providing a per pupil aid increase for choice and independent charter schools;
- Investing $30 million over the biennium to continue the governor’s initiative to support school-based mental health services statewide;
- Reaching 33.3 percent reimbursement for special education; and
- Increasing the low revenue ceiling from $10,000 to $11,000 per student.
Act 12: Shared Revenue
Assembly Bill 245, now 2023 Act 12, includes provisions changing how and how much state revenues are shared with local units of government. The final version of the bill includes the following provisions:
- Increases the shared revenue formula, providing a 20 percent increase in support to counties and municipalities, in part by dedicating one-fifth of the state’s sales tax revenue for local aid.
- Allows the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County to raise the local sales tax by two percent and 0.4 percent, respectively, with the revenue used to satisfy outstanding public employee pension debt. Allows the city council and county board to institute these tax increases by a two-thirds vote, not by referendum, as originally proposed.
- Repeals the personal property tax, a longtime priority of many business associations.
Act 13: Agricultural Roads Program
Senate Bill 247, now 2023 Act 13, creates a new component of the local roads improvement program for agricultural road improvements. JFC allocated $150 million to the Department of Transportation budget for this program. According to Gov. Evers’ press release on the new law, the program will “make targeted investments in eligible projects that support agriculture that would likely otherwise not receive funding from other state aid programs.”
AB 312/SB 312: PFAS
This bill includes language to implement PFAS-related funding in the budget. This includes creating municipal and innocent private landowner grant programs for PFAS remediation and adding PFAS-related specifications to existing water-related grant programs. The bill also contains some limitations on the Department of Natural Resources’ authority to intervene or require PFAS testing in certain situations and provides a process for water utilities to respond to PFAS contamination.
The bill has received a public hearing in both houses of the Legislature. The bill is still being developed, and the authors recently introduced a substitute amendment adjusting aspects of the bill.
AB 321/SB 329: Literacy Assessment and Intervention Program
This bill would add new requirements for reading instruction in K-12 public and choice schools and create an early literacy assessment and intervention program. The Joint Finance Committee set aside $50 million in the budget to implement this program. The Assembly passed the bill on June 21; the bill has received a public hearing in the Senate.
Update: On July 19, Gov. Evers announced that he had signed AB 321 into law as 2023 Act 20. Gov. Evers also signed five other bills, Acts 21-25, to ratify collective bargaining agreements with various state employee unions.