THU PM Update: Fitzgerald to begin meeting with caucus Tuesday on budget

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— With the Joint Finance Committee finishing its work on the budget today, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said he will begin meeting with his members Tuesday to see where they stand on the document.

Already, Sen. Dave Craig, R-Big Bend, has said he is “gravely concerned” over what he views as excessive spending in the budget. And Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, has said the transportation package, structural deficit and capital budget have made it “more difficult by the day to vote in favor of the budget.”

Still, Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, told reporters he hasn’t had any member come to him to say there was one item in the budget “they couldn’t live with.”

“I’m not going to jump to any conclusions on any one individual senator,” Fitzgerald said. “Just like you have to do at the end of any Finance process, is come together again and start from scratch, run through the document and see what the issues may be.”

Fitzgerald and Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said the tentative plan is for the Assembly to begin floor votes on the budget June 25 and then send it to the Senate. Fitzgerald said he wouldn’t rule out the Senate coming in June 26, but it was likely the chamber would be on the floor June 27.

Vos, meanwhile, said the Assembly plans an all-day caucus Wednesday in between its two floor sessions next week.

— Vos vowed earlier this week the Legislature wouldn’t come back until October to take action if Gov. Tony Evers vetoed the budget.

Today, he struck a different tone, saying he wasn’t prepared to accept the idea that Evers would veto the entire document, something that hasn’t happened since the state went to an executive budget process in 1931.

Vos argued the budget had something for all political stripes, from a lower level of spending and additional tax cuts for conservatives to a bigger investment in schools and health care.

He also touted results from surveys sent to his members’ constituents and listening sessions in their GOP districts to argue JFC had produced “a Wisconsin budget for everyone.” Evers has dubbed his proposal “the people’s budget.”

“I’m going to be an optimist,” Vos said.

Asked for comment, an Evers spokeswoman referred to the guv’s past remarks that he was waiting to review the final product that emerges from the Legislature.

— JFC today added a tax package to the budget that includes a net reduction of $378.6 million. The bulk of that would be an income tax cut that averages $75 per each filer who qualifies in tax year 2019.

Separately, the committee backed a standalone bill to use additional revenue from online sales to reduce income taxes by another $136.1 million in tax year 2020.

Between the bill and the budget, the combined impact would be an average reduction of $136 in 2020 for the taxpayers who qualify, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

— Revenue Secretary Peter Barca said the agency has had “constructive” talks with Republicans about the proposal to use sales tax revenue from online transactions to cut income taxes.

The state was already in line to reduce income taxes in 2019 due to additional sales tax collections from online sales following a U.S. Supreme Court decision. Under existing law, the reduction — projected to be $61 million — would be proportional across all four of the state’s tax brackets.

Due to a drafting error in the state law, the tax break will only apply to tax year 2019 without additional action.

The bill would target the reductions in the bottom two brackets while also capturing more online transactions to increase the amount of sales tax the state would take in. It also would make the tax breaks permanent.

Under the standalone bill:

*the lowest bracket of 4 percent would drop to 3.89 percent in tax year 2019. It would then go to 3.76 percent in tax year 2020.

*the second lowest bracket would drop to 5.21 percent from the current 5.84 percent under the budget the committee approved earlier today. The bill would take that reduction to 5.08 percent in tax year 2019 and then 4.93 percent in tax year 2020.

The state’s top two brackets of 6.27 percent and 7.65 percent would remain the same.

— Dems slammed the tax cut package Republicans added to the budget, saying it fell short of what Gov. Tony Evers proposed after campaigning on plan targeting the middle class last fall.

JFC Co-chair John Nygren, R-Marinette, said the guv had the chance to see his tax cut become law when Republicans approved a version of it.

But Evers vetoed the bill because Republicans wanted to use money from a surplus to cover the cost in this biennium; Evers had campaigned on raising taxes on manufacturers to pay for his version.

“The choice is very clear on this opportunity today: Passing tax relief onto those who need it the most or take a political stand and break another political promise,” Nygren said.

According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, those making $150,000 or below would receive 85.9 percent of the reduction from the tax plan Republicans added to the budget. The cut would range from $3 for those making less than $5,000 to $95 for those with incomes between $125,000 and $150,000. Those with incomes above that would see an average reduction of $91 to $95.

Dems slammed the GOP record on taxes over the last eight years, saying their Republican colleagues had focused their attention previously on the wealthy at the expense of lower- and middle-class residents.

That included again hammering a GOP tax credit for manufacturers and farmers. The guv’s budget proposed capping the manufacturing component of that credit at the first $300,000, which would’ve resulted in a $517 million tax increase. But Republicans rejected the proposal.

Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, said Evers’ tax cut plan would’ve been twice as large while those making more than $150,000 wouldn’t have seen a dime of the reduction. Meanwhile, she said Republicans were rejecting the guv’s proposal to create a $9.9 million tax credit a year for childcare costs and a $4.1 million proposal to help first-time home buyers.

“The difference is he doesn’t give it to the people who don’t need it, and you do,” Taylor said.

The GOP motion also includes:

*putting an additional $58.6 million in general purpose revenue into the funding for the lottery tax credit to reduce property taxes.

*signing off on the guv’s proposal to modify limitations on a deduction for medical care insurance purchased by the self-employed, reducing taxes an estimated $9.5 million in the second year of the budget.

*approving the guv’s recommendation to increase funding by $8 million for a refundable property tax credit for veterans and surviving spouses.

*transferring $30 million in surplus funds from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. to the general fund.

*increasing the tax on vaping products by $5.5 million. The guv had proposed a $36.4 million increase in taxes on vaping products.

See the LFB distribution memo on the individual income tax cut added to the budget:

See the GOP motion:

— The committee’s motion 999 — which has often inserted policy into the budget — included no new items.

The document only included drafting instructions for the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

See the Budget Blog for more on today’s actions:

— The Assembly Rules Committee today finalized the calendar for Tuesday’s floor session.

Among the proposals the body will take up are:

*A bill that would address step therapy — a cost-saving method employed by insurance companies; it makes patients try a number of drugs recommended by the insurer before “stepping” up to cover the cost of the medication recommended by a doctor. The bill aims to make the insurance appeals process easier.

*A measure that would create an accommodation for those who are unable to state their name and address at polling locations due to a disability.

*A pair of resolutions congratulating the Green Bay Packers and the Milwaukee Bucks.

See the calendar:

— The Assembly Transportation Committee today approved three bills designed to ensure spending by the Department of Transportation is “efficient and effective.”

The panel today approved three measures from the so-called Road to Sustainability package authored by Rep. Joe Sanfelippo: AB 273 would offer ways for the DOT to source materials at lower cost; AB 275 would require the DOT to up the number of design-build projects in its pipeline to ensure projects are ready to go once resources are available; and AB 284 would create a discretionary merit fund to incentivize employees to look for cost-saving methods.

But two other bills in the package — which would have required municipalities to hold a referendum before imposing a new wheel tax and required the DOT in some circumstances to reject a bid if it was the only one received on a project — were pulled from consideration.

Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Kulp, R-Stratford, told that Sanfelippo asked for those measures to be removed from consideration because he felt they weren’t ready.

The three proposals that are now heading to the Assembly floor all passed 8-4 along party lines. Dems on the committee slammed the package for “restricting local government’s ability to do their job” and raised concerns that new DOT Secretary Craig Thompson was not consulted in the development of the bills.

“I think that it’s necessary for us to be hearing what’s going on in the agency right now and making new rules in accordance with that,” said Rep. Greta Neubauer, D-Racine.

But Sanfelippo fired back that the package had represented an attempt to implement the recommendations of a recent audit of the Department of Transportation by the Legislative Audit Bureau.

The New Berlin Republican said he agreed that the DOT needed more funding. But in light of the LAB audit, he said simply pumping more money in the department would be akin to trying to fix a leaky pipe by budgeting for a higher water bill.

“You have to pay the water bill but you also have to fix the leak. What we’re doing with these bills is fixing the leak,” he said.

See the bills:

— A bipartisan bill providing an extension to close the state’s troubled youth prisons and give counties more time to apply for grants to fund regional facilities was unanimously approved by an Assembly panel today.

The proposal approved by the Assembly Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee would also make technical changes to 2017 Act 185 — a sweeping measure that restructured juvenile justice in the state.

Under that law, the Juvenile Corrections Grant Committee was intended to have received finalized applications from counties by March 31. But the committee just last week approved a final version of an application and accepted letters of interested at that deadline instead.

In addition to providing a six-month extension to close the youth lockups at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake, the bill that passed unanimously in committee today will provide a three-month extension to the timeline for submitting grant applications to the grant committee and for the grant committee to in turn submit the plan for funding grant applications to JCF.

“When we think about the Wisconsin motto we know that we can’t just have a one size fits all when it comes down to making sure that we do what we can for our young people and so to allow this kind of flexibility from county to county is going to allow them to meet the needs of these young people,” said Rep. David Crowley, D-Milwaukee.

The state undertook a dramatic restructuring of its juvenile corrections system last session. 2017 Act 185 mandated Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake be shuttered by Jan. 1, 2021.
Serious juvenile offenders from those youth lockups would be placed in one of two so-called “Type 1” facilities run by the state, while less serious offenders would be sent to county-run ​Secure Residential Care Centers for Children and Youth, or SRCCCYs. The act also called for the expansion of the Department of Health Services’ Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center.

But the counties interested in applying for grants to building SRCCCYs raised a number of concerns with the measure, ranging from funding levels to technical language in the law they felt needed to be clarified before they could move forward to apply for funding. Those concerns have slowed the work of the grant committee, tightening the timeline to a nearly unworkable degree.

Lawmakers on the panel followed up on yesterday’s public hearing on the bill with only a brief discussion about its importance before voting unanimously to move it on to the Assembly floor.

See the bill:

— The committee also unanimously supported a measure prohibiting sexual contact by law enforcement officers with people in their custody.

Lawmakers approved a pair of changes from the original bill text to address concerns raised by lawmakers during the bill’s public hearing. One amendment removed text defining whose custody the individual is in and was replaced with language specifying the protection applies to anyone in the custody of a law enforcement officer. A second amendment addressed some concerns regarding so-called Terry stops, commonly known as stop and frisk, which are now protected in the bill.

Similar bills have recently passed in numerous states in response to the case of Anna Chambers, an 18-year-old girl who was stopped and arrested by two male police officers, then repeatedly sexually assaulted in the back of their police car.

The officers faced minor charges due to a loophole that was previously in New York law. The loophole at the time of the reported attack allowed the officers to have consensual sex with someone in their custody.

This loophole currently exists in Wisconsin law, and the state would be following suit with New York, Maryland, and others seeking to close it.

See the bill:

— Gov. Tony Evers today appointed Rachel Graham to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals in District IV.

Graham, who graduated from the University of Wisconsin Law School, will fill the seat of retiring Judge Gary Sherman.

Graham previously worked as a commercial litigator, as well as a clerk for the Wisconsin Supreme Court and a special education teacher. She has received awards for her pro bono work with incarcerated individuals.

“Wisconsin deserves fair judges who respect the law and understand the people that come before them. Rachel A. Graham has the temperament, experience, and ability to do just that for the people of Wisconsin,” Evers said in a release.

See the release:


Free event: June 17: Navigating the New Economy: The booming border

–Sponsored by WAGET, the Wisconsin Academy of Global Education and Training in partnership with and the Kenosha News —

Even if the Foxconn development doesn’t reach its full promise, the southeastern Wisconsin border economy is booming. But that brings issues in the areas of workforce, housing and transportation. A panel of experts weigh in on how to navigate the issues and make the most of the boom.

When: Monday, June 17, 8 a.m. with breakfast served. Program from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Where: The Civil War Museum, 5400 First Avenue, Kenosha, Wis. 262-653-4141

What: Panel discussion featuring Wisconsin Revenue Secretary Barca; economics Prof. Cassie Lau of Carthage College; Heather Wessling, vice president of economic development for the Kenosha Area Business Alliance and former president of WEDA; plus area state Reps. Ohnstad and Kerkman.

Cost is free, thanks to the WAGET sponsorship.

Register in advance here:



LRB-2699/1: Creating a tax-advantaged first-time home buyers savings account. By Rep. Murphy.

LRB-3484/1: Congratulating Supreme Court Justice Shirley Abrahamson on 43 years of service. By Rep. Taylor.


AB 287: Certifications for advance directives and findings of incapacity related to powers of attorney for health care. Referred to Committee on Health.

AB 288: Eliminating the personal property tax and making an appropriation. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.

AB 289: Underage sexual activity. Referred to Committee on Judiciary.

AB 290: Permitting pharmacists to prescribe, administer, and dispense certain contraceptives, granting rule-making authority, and providing a penalty. Referred to Committee on Health.

AB 291: Trauma-informed care position grants and making an appropriation. Referred to Committee on Children and Families.

AB 292: School district revenue limit adjustment for energy efficiency projects. Referred to Committee on Education.

AB 293: Online notaries public and electronic notarizations, granting rule-making authority, and providing a penalty. Referred to Committee on Local Government.

AB 294: Changing the 12 percent rule regarding the total value of taxable property included in the creation of a tax incremental financing district in the village of Ontario. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.

AB 295: Increasing the homestead tax credit maximum income. Referred to Committee on Ways and Means.

AB 296: Notices of eligibility to receive a prize. Referred to Committee on State Affairs.

AB 297: Changes to the electronic waste recycling program and granting rule-making authority. Referred to Committee on Environment.

AB 298: Sales of dogs and cats by pet stores and providing a penalty. Referred to Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety.

AB 299: Including with the property tax bill information state aid reduction to school districts. Referred to Committee on Local Government.

Track bills for free:

State Journal: Joint Finance Committee approves $457 million income tax cut

WPR: Land Trusts Voice Mixed Feelings Over Short-Term Approval Of Stewardship Program

AP: Gov. Evers re-forms Wisconsin pardons board Walker dropped

Capital Times: Madison, Capitol police to put together safety study under budget committee plan

CNN: Sarah Sanders leaving White House post after fraught tenure

CNN: Federal office says Kellyanne Conway should be removed from government

New York Times: Trump Assailed for Saying He Would Take Campaign Help From Russia

Politico: House Republicans try to spin Trump’s foreign dirt comment

AP: Tankers struck near Strait of Hormuz; US blames Iran

NBC: U.S. blames Iran for ‘blatant assault’ on oil tankers in Gulf of Oman


– 12 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.: Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors & Premiers Leadership Summit.

– 10 a.m.: PSC hearing.

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