The next Wisconsin biennial budget plan now goes to the governor for his signature after passing the state Assembly and state Senate last week, prior to the end of the state’s fiscal year.
Last week, both houses of the state legislature held debates and votes on the Republican budget proposal. The bill passed the Assembly on a largely party-line vote as Assembly Republicans made last-minute changes to the budget in order to shore up votes in the Senate where the bill faced an uncertain future. The Senate passed the budget the next day by a single vote.
Democrats in both houses continued to fight for the People’s Budget by introducing amendments that reflected Gov. Tony Evers’ major budget proposals. These included an historic investment in public schools, increasing access to affordable health care, and ensuring that everyone in the state has access to clean drinking water.
The $81 billion spending package proposal now goes to Gov. Evers who is expected to take action on the bill sometime next week. The plan includes about $2 billion less in spending than what Evers had proposed.
The budget that passed in the legislature features $1.9 billion for building projects, a nearly $500 million increase in K-12 education, a more than $300 million middle-income tax cut and boosts in vehicle title fees and car registration costs. But it doesn’t include federal Medicaid expansion dollars and $1.4 billion more in education funding Evers originally requested.
Shortly after the budget passed in the legislature, area leaders were already reviewing its impact on local municipalities and public education.
Bruce School District Administrator Pat Sturzl noted the budget process is not over yet. He said governor has time to review the budget from the state legislature and use his line item veto.
“If everything in the education portion of the budget remains, there will be an increase in funding for every school district in the state. Districts will need to wait and see how the budgets process concludes in order to know the exact impact of the state’s budget on individual school districts,” Sturzl said.
Ladysmith Administrator noted the spending proposal no longer exempts creation of a local storm water utility from the requirement of reducing taxes by the same amount as such a utility would raise. City officials are currently studying such a new
“[This would be] eliminating the only significant new route the City may have considered to raise revenues, other than through borrowing,” Christianson said in an email.
On Twitter, Gov. Evers stated, “Thanks to the thousands of Wisconsinites who made their voices heard on The People’s Budget. From start to finish, your input was critically important to me in shaping this budget.”
“You attended listening sessions, called your legislators, wrote letters to your local papers, and shared your stories online. That advocacy made a difference,” Evers said. “I’ve said all along that the will of the people is the law of the land, and that’s what will be on my mind as I review the Legislature’s changes to our budget.”
The State of Wisconsin’s budget covers a 2-year period from July 1 of one odd-numbered year through June 30 of the next odd-numbered year. Development of the biennial budget involves a nearly year-long process. In the fall of the even-numbered year, state agencies submit budget requests to the Department of Administration. Requests are compiled by the State Budget Office for review by the Governor. The Governor is required by law to deliver the budget message to the new legislature on or before the last Tuesday in January, although the legislature can extend the deadline at the Governor’s request.
To meet the state’s budgetary cycle, the budget should be signed and effective by July 1 of the odd-numbered year. If there is a delay, state agencies operate at their appropriation authority from the prior budget until the new budget is in effect.
Representative James Edming (R-Glen Flora) voted in favor of the 2019-21 State Budget noting for the past several months he had been gathering feedback from voters on the governor’s spending plan. He cited input he received during seven in-district budget listening sessions, over 900 survey responses, and many contacts to his office.
“As the budget process unfolded, I did my best to advocate for these priorities and to make sure they were addressed,” Edming said.
“As I heard from folks around the 87th District throughout the budget process, one of the top items they wanted to see addressed was middle class tax relief,” Edming said. “I am proud that this budget fulfills that request by reducing income taxes for middle class taxpayers by over $300 million over the course of the two-year budget without increasing taxes on farmers and manufacturers.”
Another budget priority Edming said he heard support for was continuing to increase investment in K-12 education.
“I am pleased that this budget builds upon the over $630 million in increased funding from the 2017-19 State Budget and increases funding for K-12 education by an additional $500 million,” Edming said.
The budget also addresses improving access to reliable high-speed broadband, which Edming ranked as consistently being one of the top priorities for his constituents.
“I am proud that, under the budget passed by the Assembly, $46.2 million is invested in the state’s broadband expansion grant program over the course of the two-year budget. This is the most funding for this program in its history and will allow for many more broadband projects to receive funding,” Edming said.
“With a piece of legislation the size of the state budget, there are certainly some parts of it that I do not agree with. However this budget addresses a number of the 87th District’s priorities in a fiscally responsible manner which is why it earned my support,” Edming said.
The GOP budget contained several differences compared to the one that passed through the Joint Committee on Finance (JFC) in order to satisfy even more special interest groups at the expense of Wisconsinites, according to State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton). He applauded Senate Democrats for introducing several amendments to keep intact key proposals in Evers’ budget, including investing in schools, increasing access to affordable health care, and ensuring that Wisconsinites have access to clean drinking water.
“Unfortunately, Republicans voted against these common-sense proposals and against the communities that they represent,” Erpenbach said.
“It is a sad day for Wisconsin, because the budget that is on its way to Governor Evers’ desk is incredibly disappointing compared to what he originally introduced,” Erpenbach said. “Republicans chose to reject bringing home 1.2 billion of your federal dollars a year to expand Medicaid; slashed school funding compared to the People’s Budget, including special education by 83 percent, deleted provisions to ensure access to clean drinking water; and provided less tax relief to Wisconsinites in order to protect massive tax giveaways to the wealthy. These are some examples of the many missed opportunities in this budget. We need bold, innovative solutions in order to make Wisconsin a place where future generations want to work and live. The Republican budget misses the mark.”
University of Wisconsin President Ray Cross praised the budget passed by the legislature, stating it makes a significant long-term investment in the campus infrastructure that will benefit students, faculty, and state for years to come.
“I thank Majority Leader [Scott] Fitzgerald, Speaker [Robin] Vos and their respective caucuses for their leadership in moving these projects forward,” Cross said.“I also thank Governor Evers for his steadfast commitment to the University of Wisconsin System during the budget process, and everyone who continues to advocate for a strong UW System budget.”
State Senator Jerry Petrowski (R-Marathon) voted in favor of the two-year spending proposal, noting that it reflects the priorities of Wisconsin citizens.
“This budget is the result of listening to the concerns, ideas, and opinions of people across the state,” Petrowski said. “[It] is a substantial ‘win’ for the people of northcentral Wisconsin.”
A cornerstone of the proposal is $12.3 billion for K-12 educational funding in the state, the largest investment in education in state history. Over the two years of the budget, schools across the state will receive an additional $604 per pupil in state funding to strengthen our public schools.
The budget also underscores a commitment to higher education by freezing tuition for Wisconsin students at the University of Wisconsin. In addition, the plan calls for nearly $32 million for classroom renovations and technological upgrades at the UW, allowing students the opportunities to learn the skills they need to be competitive in the global marketplace.
There’s also an additional $18 million investment in the state’s technical schools to help schools like Northcentral Technical College increase slots for high-demand programs like nursing and construction trades. Petrowski said these dollars will help students earn degrees and, in turn, help area employers by allowing students to more quickly enter the state workforce.
“Freezing tuition makes the option of going to college more affordable and attainable for Wisconsin students,” Petrowski said. “Because of the tuition freeze, the average student at UW-Stevens Point will save over $7,000 on their four-year degree and will graduate with significantly less debt.”
The budget also invests the most money in a decade for state highway rehabilitation, increasing that program by $320 million. It also provides $90 million more to the Local Road Improvement Program and $66 million more to the General Transportation Aids program to help counties, cities, villages and towns improve local roads. The transportation package includes a provision supported by Petrowski that will allocate an additional $5 million for low-revenue town road maintenance.
“As I’ve spoken with local elected officials across the district, they have repeatedly asked for more help in fixing the roads in their communities that have been neglected for too long. This budget answers that request and will help making driving safer along these rural roadways,” Petrowski said.
Petrowski worked to increase hospital payments and reimbursement rates to nursing homes, which is aimed at lowering the costs of health care in Wisconsin and making more competitive wages for nurses and certified nursing assistants working in northcentral Wisconsin. He noted the area has seen a number of nursing homes close recently both because of the historically-low reimbursement rates and the inability to attract and retain qualified staff. The dollars allocated in the budget should help to keep these facilities open and more affordable for our aging senior population.
The budget package also contains more money for rural broadband access by providing more than $44 million in a matching grant program, which more than doubles the amount of funding in the past five years of the program combined, and is expected to provide high-speed Internet access to thousands of small businesses, families, farmers, and students in the rural areas the state.
While the budget bolsters programs and initiatives expected to keep the state’s economy moving forward, it also provides a tax cut to low- and middle-income families.
“In addition to rejecting Governor Evers’ proposal to increase the gas tax by 8 cents a gallon, the final budget package also provides nearly $500 million in tax relief, specifically targeting those residents and families making less than $50,000 a year,” Petrowski said. “In fact, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the average taxpayer will see a $238 reduction in their state tax burden.”
Petrowski noted that while not perfect, the budget package funds priorities important to the people he represents.
“This package represents a balanced approach and makes good on our commitments to education, safe roads, affordable health care, and a better business climate in Wisconsin,” Petrowski. said. “It also makes living in Wisconsin more affordable by cutting income taxes and keeping property taxes in check. This budget is the result of working together in divided government to keep Wisconsin a great place to live, work, and raise a family.”