News from the Capitol and around Wisconsin
We hope your week is going well and that you had the change to relax over the weekend. We would like to take a moment to in this Capitol Report to acknowledge and remember September 11th, 2001, and all who were lost on that terrible day.
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This week, we will share the latest results from a Public Policy Forum study regarding property tax caps, take a look at the shake-up in Assembly Democrat leadership, bring you the latest on WI National Guard activation, and go through Governor Walker's veto powers.
As always, we hope you find this weekly report to be interesting and informative. If there are ever any issues that you would like to see included, or if you ever have any questions or comments, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a great week,
Last week, the Joint Finance Committee wrapped up its work on the 2017-2019 state budget, which will now head to the full legislature for its consideration.
All told, if the budget stays intact, this was a good budget for property taxpayers. Once the bill has been signed into law, we can get into the specifics of how much property taxes will actually be reduced as a result. But one question that came up last week was about Motion 999.
Motion 999 or the committee's "wrap up motion" is usually a pork motion where special projects receive funding, and some nonfiscal items are inserted into the budget. If you recall, earlier this year when the committee first began its work on the massive spending plan, lawmakers took the step of removing all nonfiscal policy from the state budget.
So what exactly was in Motion 999 this time?
$5 million for the La Crosse Center. $5 million for the St. Ann Center for Intergenerational Care. $5 million for a science center in Green Bay. $4 million for a small airport in Wisconsin Rapids. $3.2 million for harbor in Door County. Nearly $2 million for the Appleton International Airport, and a million bucks for a campground in Iron County.
How does 999 add up to the past, however? Not very well.
999 is usually something that catches the attention of the media and there is generally public outcry regarding one or multiple items inserted into the motion. In 2015 the big story was how lawmakers allegedly wanted to make massive and sweeping changes to Wisconsin's open records laws. In 2013, the 999 motion was going to allow for the bounty hunting industry to operate in Wisconsin again.
This time, nothing like that.
In fact, the item that is receiving most criticism or attention is regarding an airport that will get $4 million in Stevens Point because of its proximity to a new golf course in the area that is owned by a wealthy donor of the state's GOP. Is that really news? I don't know.
Another story is that $14 million or so will be provided to Arcadia for floor control, which is also home to Ashley Furniture. When a region, city, or town in the state is home to one of the largest employers in the state, it's probably a good move to make sure the area is safe from natural disasters. The last thing you want is thousands of people out of work or displaced.
After everything is said and done, the transportation impasse notwithstanding, this budget was pretty low-key and noncontroversial. No major policy changes, no riots or protests on the footsteps of the Capitol- just some happy people and some unhappy people- the same as any other budget.
THE BUDGET IS OUT OF COMMITTEE- NOW WHAT?
Now that the Joint Finance Committee has wrapped up its work on the state budget, the massive $76 billion spending bill will move to both chambers of the state legislature where it will be debated, possibly amended, and then passed. Both chambers have to pass identical versions of the bill in order for it to be sent to the governor. In other words, if the Assembly passes the budget, and then the Senate amends the budget, the bill would have to be sent back to the entire Assembly for them to vote on again.
While it sounds like most of the disagreements have been worked out behind closed doors in the committee process, once the bill leaves the legislature and heads to Governor Walker's desk, the process is still not done.
The Governor of Wisconsin, whoever it may be, has some of the broadest and most powerful veto authorities in the United States, if not the single most powerful. In Wisconsin, our governor can use partial, line-item veto authority, and strike single letters and numbers from the bill and can form new words and numbers by doing so.
Nothing is certain, but Governor Walker could use his veto authority and make some significant changes to the budget as it currently sits, and then sign it into law.
Just to wrap up, last week, some of the big ticket items were:
$639 million for K-12 education in Wisconsin
Place limits on when school districts can hold referenda
Allow teachers to have lifetime teaching licenses
Partial repeal of the Personal Property Tax (Schedule C eliminated)
Lower property taxes by nearly one billion dollars
Borrow $402 million for transportation
Add registration fee to hybrid and electric vehicles
Delay north portion of Zoo Interchange
Eliminate prevailing wage entirely
PROPERTY TAX LEVY CAP HELPING TAXPAYERS
According to the nonpartisan Public Policy Forum, in a report released last week, state-imposed property tax revenue caps on local governments and school districts are helping taxpayers, but are not keeping up with rising property values.
In just the Milwaukee metro area alone, property values rose by 3.5% so far in 2017, and 3.2% in 2016. That brings those equalized property values to 96% of pre-recession levels. And the total of all property taxes levied by school, municipal, and county governments grew by 1% from 2016 to 2017.
Though some believe that this stifles the ability for any number of local taxing authorities to properly provide services, referenda processes are in place for voters to decide whether or not they would like to see their property taxes raised to support various needs or wants.
How it works is that levy increases for municipal governments and counties depend on the percentage increase in property values from new construction. Since the levy caps were put into 2005, property value growth sat at about 7-8%, while government levies were growing by 4-5%.
According to the report, since property values were on the rise in each of the last two years, tax collectors were able to increase the levies without raising the tax rates, and it will likely be the same in the upcoming December 2018 bills.
BARCA RESIGNS AS ASSEMBLY DEMOCRAT LEADER
In a surprising move last week, Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, a representative from Kenosha, said he would serve until the end of the month and then be done with his tenure in that role. Barca has been in the role since 2001, and became the face of the Assembly Democrats as they opposed Governor Walker's Act 10 legislation, which limited collective bargaining for public employees.
After a nearly four hour meeting across the street from the State Capitol, Barca announced his decision publicly, with Republicans immediately taking aim at the Assembly Democrat Caucus, accusing them of ousting their leader after he voted in favor of the contentious Foxconn legislation.
Governor Walker took to Twitter after the announcement, and said that Assembly Democrats were sending a warning by ousting Barca, that working with Walker on family-supporting jobs and Foxconn won't be tolerated.
Oshkosh Representative Gordon Hintz, who also serves as one of the only four Democrats on the Joint Finance Committee, said Friday that he would be running to fill the leadership vacancy. Hintz is the only Democrat who has formally announced, saying he believes in broad appeal, and would like to demonstrate to rural voters how Democrats can make their lives better.
The Wisconsin GOP released a statement in response to the announcement, outlining what they call Hintz's "War on Women," following the Oshkosh lawmaker's 2011 citation for sexual misconduct in connection with a massage parlor being investigated for prostitution, and Hintz telling a female GOP lawmaker that she is "f---ing dead" after taking a vote Hintz disagreed with.
WPT WEEKLY MEMBER POLL RESULTS
Partial repeal of Personal Property Tax · Foxconn lawsuits to be appealed directly to WI Supreme Court · Transportation deal reached · Massive Gordy's grocery store layoff
JFC has partially repealed the PPT. Are you happy with this outcome?
This unfair tax needs to be ended totally. Will not be happy or put any more money towards lobbying groups promising to get rid of it, they all dropped the ball on this one. That would mean you WPT also! You should have delivered on this one and you failed.
No, none of it should have been repealed. Wisconsin needs to tax revenue, and yet another special interest has stuck it to the rest of us.
New legislation says that all Foxconn lawsuit rulings will be appealed directly to the WI Supreme Court. Good idea or bad idea?
I don't know.
If it speeds the process along lets get it done
Why can't everyone have this type of treatment?
First they fleece us with this giant handout and now they get to circumvent our legal system. Wow
Wisconsin leaders have struck and passed a deal on transportation funding. After reading "LAST WEEK" article, are you happy with the plan?
I would gladly write up the key points of funding mechanism that's better than what they are considering.
Just pushing the can down the road. We need to step up and pay for our spending.
$400m is way too much borrowing, no long term solution, and delayed projects that impact hundreds of thousands of drivers. Nice job, Republicans!
Gordy's grocery store might be laying off 1,008 employees. DO you/have you shopped at this store?
Gordy's stores are local to us, and they are all over. Their sale items are a fair deal, but the rest is nothing special. We have stores closer that aren't as crowded, easier to get in and out of, with better service, and similar prices. ANOTHER example of Bigger is NOT better. Get more small single owner businesses again! Get rid of the big boxes!
Pick N Save, Festival
Only our local store. Not into the big box stores.
Sendik's is our local grocer. Never heard of Gordy's.
Pick N Save
The budget process is now almost over. Looking back, overall, how do you feel about the (near) final product?
We at least see how compromising works to finally bring a budget forward. Although we may not like all the results from the compromises, that is proof, the process did what it is meant to do. There will never be a budget passed by any organization that would have 100% agreement. Too bad our federal government can't figure this out, they apparently never heard the word "COMPROMISE."
So much to be unhappy with...the fleecing of Wisconsin by Foxconn, delayed road projects, education funding less than inflation, new special interests getting tax cuts. Par for the course.
The personal property tax reduction is good news if your business uses schedule C. That tax takes so much money out of our company and we have to pay year after year after year on the same piece of equipment. I wish they would focus on helping small business more but this is a good start.
SOME AGRICULTURE ITEMS IN THE BUDGET
With all the talk of school funding, transportation, taxes, and everything else, it's easy to overlook some of the items in the state budget that deal with agriculture.
While there weren't any broad or sweeping changes in this budget, the largest publicized item in the budget was certainly Governor Walker's intention to eliminate the Farm to School Program in Wisconsin. As WPT reported recently, after deliberation, the Joint Finance Committee decided to re-insert the program funding back into the budget. It's anybody's guess as to whether or not the Governor will veto the provision again from the budget before signing it into law.
Additionally, $100,000 was approved in annual spending for the livestock premises registration program. This program is administered through DATCP and is a way to locate where livestock or dead animals are kept or congregated. Premises are listed in a computerized database with information about what species of animals are kept at any location.
The budget also boosts funding to counties for their land and water conservation staffing grants, and approved a proposal to keep the producer-led watershed protection grant program at $250,000 per year. $850,000 will be added annually for the soil and water resource management grant program for nutrient management planning. Also publicized was the $400,000 given to DNR to complete their hydrologic study of the Central Sands region of the state.
DAIRY HERD DROPS BELOW 9,000
According to DATCP, Wisconsin's total number of dairy farm operations have fallen below 9,000 at 8,970 herds milking as of September 1st. That's a drop of nearly 500 herds in one year. According to Greg Bussler, a State Agriculture Statistician, Wisconsin lost an average of six herds per week in 2016, and as of this year, that number is closer to eight herds per week. Bussler told the Wisconsin Ag Connection, "It is true that we continue to lose herds, mainly due to economic reasons like low milk prices and higher production costs. But milk production and cow numbers continue to be consistent, which means our industry as a whole is very strong." Wisconsin's dairy farms produced a record 30.1 billion pounds of milk last year, and is actually on pace to exceed that number this year. Clark County has the highest number of herds in the state at 836, followed by Marathon with 593. Forest and Florence Counties each have only one herd left. When Wisconsin began tracking dairy farm numbers in 1950, the state had 143,000 dairy operations and accounted for 4% of the nation's total dairy farms.
TRACKING UW PROFESSORS' TEACHING HOURS BACK INSERTED BACK INTO BUDGET
Months after being taken out of the budget due to its nonfiscal nature, the plan to track UW professors' teaching hours was inserted back into the budget last week via the notorious Motion 999. The plan would require the UW system to come up with a way to measure the teaching hours of professors and academic staff, and to offer some type of reward to employees who teach over the "standard academic workload." The information would be published on the UW System's "accountability dashboard," and is also sent to Governor Walker and the Legislature. UW-Madison officials asked lawmakers to consider the broader role that faculty and staff play, and complained that Governor Walker has a narrow view of those in academia. UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank said that UW Madison teachers provide service in teaching, research, and outreach- as such, tracking should not just be included to time in the classroom.