THU PM Update: JFC Republicans approve $500 million boost to K-12, Evers says plan ‘doesn’t get us where we need to be’

Exclusively for WisPolitics Subscribers

From …

— Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee approved putting an additional $500 million into K-12 education over the next two years as Dems slammed the plan as embarrassingly inadequate, particularly on special education.

The GOP plan, approved along party lines, included an additional $97 million for special education.

But it was well short of the $1.4 billion increase that Gov. Tony Evers proposed. That plan included a $606 million bump for special ed.

The GOP proposal would take the state to reimbursing 26 percent of special education costs in the first year of the budget and 30 percent in the second.

The state is now at 25 percent, among the lowest rates in the country. Under the guv’s budget, that rate would be 30 percent in the first year of the budget and then jump to 60 percent in the second.

Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, slammed Republicans, saying they had no credibility with the public on education after the past eight years. By comparison, she said, the “people rose up” and elected Evers last fall after he spent a career as an educator.

She challenged Republicans to run next fall on their education proposal considering the demands from parents for a bigger funding boost.

“When you keep poking our public school kids with a stick, you will hear the parents roar,” Taylor said. “And we will keep roaring, and you will hear it in the next election.”

GOP Sen. Luther Olsen, chair of the Education Committee, countered the plan Joint Finance approved 11-4 tracks to what Evers wanted for special education when he was state superintendent, not guv. Then, Evers proposed reimbursing 30 percent of special education costs in the second year of the 2017-19 budget.

“Today, we are getting to his number,” said Olsen, R-Ripon. “You talk about a cut from a number. But we’re increasing from reality.”

Olsen also said the proposed increase would set a benchmark going forward.

Federal law requires states to maintain their spending commitment to special education in order to receive federal funds. If the GOP plan is approved, it would require the state to continue funding at least 30 percent of special education costs going forward.

Ahead of the meeting, JFC Co-chair John Nygren, R-Marinette, dismissed Evers’ education budget as a political document, particularly in light of the 60 percent reimbursement rate it would’ve hit in the second year. He argued that wasn’t a sustainable rate going forward.

He also said a “high level” cabinet secretary admitted to him the proposed funding level wasn’t realistic, but declined to say who it was. Nygren also said school administrators who contacted him were more comfortable with the GOP proposal than what Evers put on the table.

“Education leaders had questions if it was realistic,” Nygren said.

— Ahead of the vote, Evers tweeted the “plan announced today by Republicans doesn’t get us where we need to be.”

Olsen said ahead of the vote that the GOP plan was the best offer the guv was going to get out of Republicans and urged him to sign it.

But Evers wrote on Twitter that he heard “time and time again” during listening sessions that people want to “fully fund our schools.”

“I remain hopeful that I can continue to work with Republicans to give our schools and our kids the resources they need to be successful,” Evers wrote. “There’s still a long way to go in the budget process, but we’re not going to negotiate against ourselves or our kids.

See the thread:

— The details of the GOP plan include:

*increasing revenue limits by $200 per student in the first year of the budget and $204 in the second year. That would be done mostly through the school aid formula, which divvies up money according to property values. But $25 of the increase in each year would be through categorical aids.

That amounts to an increase of $330 million in general school aids and $53.7 million for the categorical aid increase.

Evers also proposed increases of $200 and $204 per student, but solely through the school aid formula.

The state put nearly $5.9 billion into general and categorial aids in 2018-19

*allowing low-revenue districts to up their spending limits to $9,700 per student in the first year of the budget and $10,000 in the second year. That matches the provision Evers included in the budget for the districts, which are now capped at $9,400.

*putting $12.5 million more into mental health services and collaboration grants over the biennium. That’s $45.5 million less than Evers proposed.

*providing $1.6 million more in high cost transportation aid on top of current funding of $12.7 million. Evers had proposed adding $2.3 million.

— The GOP proposal would get the state closer to funding two-thirds of public education costs after originally abandoning that requirement 16 years ago. But it’d still fall short.

Under the GOP proposal, the state would fund 65.1 percent of school costs, on average, in the first year of the budget and 65.5 percent in the second.

Under Evers’ proposal, the state would hit 66.44 percent and 68.32 percent.

It’s now at 65.35 percent.

Nygren said the GOP plan would hit the two-thirds mark if money approved via referendum is excluded.

But Taylor dismissed that as meaningless because Republicans wouldn’t again require in state statutes that the state pick up two-thirds of school costs as Evers’ plan proposes.

— The GOP motion also would nix a series of Evers spending initiatives for schools.

That includes:

*about $35.3 million less for bilingual-bicultural education, which helps cover the costs for English learners.

*$20 million less for after school programs.

*$10 million less for Milwaukee Mathematics, a partnership between MPS and UW-Milwaukee to improve math instruction at the state’s largest school district. The partnership ended in 2013, and the guv’s proposal would’ve started back up.

*about $10 million less for sparsity aid for small, rural districts. The guv’s proposal included creating a new tier of eligibility for districts with enrollment of more than 745 students and fewer than 10 pupils per square mile.

Read today’s motions and the papers that were covered:

— Co-chair Alberta Darling, R-River Hills is expected to return to the committee Tuesday, when it has an agenda that includes the UW System.

Darling called in to today’s hearing, as she did on Tuesday. She has been absent since a fall in Washington, D.C., earlier this month.

The other areas on Tuesday’s agenda are:

District Attorneys
Public Defender
Circuit Courts
Natural Resources — Departmentwide
Natural Resources — Environmental Quality

The biggest drivers of state GPR spending are K-12, Medicaid, Corrections, the UW System and state property tax credits, according to the summary provided when Evers introduced his budget.

After Tuesday, Medicaid will be the biggest one left to take up, along with taxes.

The other significant topic the committee has yet to tackle is transportation.

See the hearing notice:

— There are no caps on legal fees in the contracts GOP legislative leaders signed with two firms to represent them in a union challenge of Act 10.

The contracts signed by attorneys Eric McLeod, of Husch Blackwell, and Misha Tseytlin, of Troutman Sanders, are similar to past deals GOP leaders reached with them in other lawsuits in which they’ve been retained.

These contracts, for a lawsuit filed by the Union of Operating Engineers, are also the latest example of Republican legislative leaders seeking outside counsel rather than be represented by Dem AG Josh Kaul. reported in late April outside counsel for GOP lawmakers had already racked up nearly $700,000 in bills since the start of 2019.

In the latest suit, the Union of Operating Engineers argues the 2011 law violates the First Amendment because it has to represent workers who aren’t paying dues.

Tseytlin, who’s representing GOP leaders in lawsuits over the December lame-duck session, will be paid $500 an hour, which the contract says is less than his typical rate. The contract states rates for others who work on the case won’t exceed $500, and taxpayers will reimburse the firm for expenses such as photocopying, travel and consultants.

The terms are identical to the contract retaining Tseytlin in the extraordinary session suits.

McLeod, a partner at Husch Blackwell, is also representing GOP lawmakers before the state Supreme Court in two suits. One deals with the DNR’s decision to allow a Kewaunee County dairy farm to expand to more than 6,000 cows in an area where concerns have been raised over groundwater pollution. The other addresses the agency’s approval of eight high-capacity wells.

The language in the new contract is identical to the one signed last month.

It doesn’t specify what McLeod, a partner at the firm, will be paid on an hourly basis. It only states that Husch Blackwell partners make between $310 and $820 with rates of $215 to $420 for associates, $130 to $325 for paralegals and $180 to $600 for other professionals in specialty areas.

Dem leads slammed the growing legal bills.

Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, called it embarrassing and accused Republicans of “picking petty political fights on the taxpayer’s dime” rather than properly funding schools.

Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, said GOP leadership was “intoxicated with power” and while most politicians would shy away from paying attorneys $500 an hour with a “blank taxpayer check,” “Senator Fitzgerald and Representative Vos seem to recognize that that their rigged elections insulate them from that public backlash.”

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald pointed to the Juneau Republican’s comments when he announced the GOP planned to hire outside counsel to intervene in the suit.

“We aren’t picking this fight – once again a liberal group is trying to change laws that have been passed by the Legislature and previously upheld by the courts,” Fitzgerald said earlier this week. “We cannot sit idly by and allow our attorney general or governor an opportunity to undermine Act 10, and will seek to intervene in this case accordingly to make sure that the law is upheld.”

See the contract with McLeod:

See the contract with Tseytlin:

— An aide to Dem Rep. Shelia Stubbs alleges that GOP Rep. Shae Sortwell displayed a concealed handgun in an office where weapons are not permitted.

Stubbs aide Savion Castro told today that Sortwell had stopped by the office to discuss legislation that would ease regulations on barbers and make the process of obtaining a professional license easier.

The incident, first reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, kicked off when Sortwell noticed a sign on the office door banning firearms. According to Castro, Sortwell proceeded to quiz him on the sign, which he labeled as “silly.”

“He asked me if I thought it would prevent anything and pulled back his coat to show the handgun he was carrying,” said Castro.

He then asked Sortwell to leave, and the Two Rivers Republican complied.

Firearms are allowed in the Capitol, but lawmakers can choose to ban them from their legislative offices.

Sortwell did not respond to a request for comment from today and repeatedly declined to give the Journal Sentinel his version of events, telling a reporter “you take whatever story (Castro) wants to put out there that may or may not be true and you go with it.”

— Dane County Judge Jill Karofsky today formally filed to run for the state Supreme Court next year, when conservative Justice Daniel Kelly would be on the ballot for a full 10-year term.

Karofsky, who previously worked as a deputy district attorney for Dane County and at the Wisconsin Department of Justice, told last month that she planned to run.

“Our country is on the wrong track, with the judiciary being increasingly politicized and the rule of law being ignored for partisan political reasons, and I think we need strong leaders who will put our strong Wisconsin political tradition of independent and honest courts first,” Karofsky said.

See the release:

— Rep. Jimmy Anderson, D-Fitchburg, today delivered a letter to AG Josh Kaul requesting an opinion from his office as to whether December’s extraordinary session violated the state’s open meetings laws.

Anderson, who is paralyzed from the chest down, contends that GOP Assembly leaders broke state law by “taking advantage of” his disability and “manipulating the process” in order to exclude him from deliberations and votes on the lame-duck package.

“To determine whether this is true, I am requesting the opinion of the Wisconsin Attorney General’s office,” Anderson said in a release.

The Fitchburg Dem in January filed a complaint featuring the same allegations with the Dane County District Attorney’s office, but his office told today that they had yet to hear back from the DA Ismael Ozanne.

A DOJ spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment.

See the release:

See the complaint:

— Kaul today announced he plans to strengthen enforcement of environmental regulations by creating the Public Protection Unit.

To create the division, the DOJ will merge personnel from two current units: the Environmental Protection Unit and Consumer Protection Unit. The move will eliminate the need for two unit heads, allowing the DOJ to add an additional attorney to prosecute environmental violations.

It will also allow for the DOJ to “more effectively leverage” the workload of paralegals and legal assistants to help with consumer-protection and environmental cases.

“The creation of the Public Protection Unit is a step toward revitalizing the enforcement of our consumer protection and environmental laws,” Kaul said in a release.

See the release:

— Kaul today also joined a coalition of 46 attorneys general calling on Congress to amend the Communication Decency Act to allow local authorities to take action against illegal online activities.

The CDA, passed in 1996, was originally intended to promote the growth of the internet by encouraging free speech on online platforms. The act maintained that operators of online message boards were not publishers, and thus not legally liable for content posted to their site by third parties.

But the act was broadly interpreted by federal judges to mean individuals who have knowingly aided and profited from illegal activities evaded prosecution. Congress has passed legislation making clear the immunity does not apply to sex trafficking, but other perpetrators of other illegal online activity — such as online black market opioid sales, identity theft and election meddling — are still immune.

“Federal law shouldn’t protect companies that profit from online criminal activity from prosecution under state law,” Kaul said in a release. “Along with AGs from across the country, I encourage Congress to amend the Communications Decency Act so it doesn’t interfere with the enforcement of state criminal laws.”

See the release:

— The Assembly Ways and Means Committee today voted unanimously today to ensure the sales tax created to pay for the Milwaukee Brewers stadium would end March 31.

The sales tax is expected to have collected enough money by late 2019 or early 2020 to pay off the costs. The Miller Park District Board anticipates certifying the end of the tax at its March 10, 2020, meeting, a spokesman said.

Without a hard deadline for the state to cease collecting the tax, it could take until October before it ceases, according to the bill authors. Any revenue collected after the board certification would be returned.

See the substitute amendment:

— The UW System Board of Regents today unanimously approved the appointment of Dwight Watson as chancellor of UW-Whitewater.

Watson, who currently serves as provost and vice president of academic and student affairs at Southwest Minnesota State University, was recommended to the board by the selection committee.

Former Chancellor Beverly Kopper resigned her post on Dec. 31 amid sexual harassment allegations against her husband, Alan “Pete” Hill. Cheryl Green, a finalist for the position, has been serving as interim chancellor since Jan. 1.


June 13: luncheon: The future of transportation funding in Wisconsin

Transportation funding has become one of the key debating points in the two-year state budget making its way through the Legislature. Gov. Tony Evers proposed an 8-cent-a gallon increase in the gas tax plus while getting rid of the minimum markup on gasoline — something the administration said would more than wipe out the increase. Republicans have removed the minimum markup provision and left in the gas tax increase for now. Where will the debate lead and will it result in a long-term solution?

Hear details from some of the key players in the debate at a issues luncheon set for Thursday, June 13 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at UW-Milwaukee’s Waukesha campus just off I-94.

Panelists for the discussion: Wisconsin DOT Secretary Craig Thompson, Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow, state Rep. Debra Kolste, D-Janesville and a member of the Assembly Transportation Committee, and state Rep. Joe Sanfelippo, R-New Berlin and a member of the Assembly Transportation Committee. subscribers and members receive discounted pricing for WisPolitics luncheons of $20 per person, including lunch. Price for the general public is $25 per person, including lunch.

This event is sponsored by: Kapur & Associates, UW-Milwaukee, Wisconsin Academy of Global Education and Training, ELEVEN25 at Pabst, Milwaukee Police Association, The Firm Consulting, Medical College of Wisconsin and Spectrum.

The Waukesha County Business Alliance is an event partner.

For more information and registration, visit:



LRB-1658/1: Increasing the number of authorized positions for the Department of Health Services. By Reps. Mursau and Milroy and Sens. Cowles and Miller.

LRB-1759/1: Making insect repellant available for sale in state parks and state forests. By Reps. Mursau and Milroy and Sens. Cowles and Miller.

LRB-1652/1: Establishing a tick-borne disease study committee. By Reps. Mursau and Milroy and Sens. Cowles and Miller.

LRB-1758/1: Creating signs informing about Lyme disease in state parks, state trails, state recreational areas, and state forests. By Reps. Mursau and Milroy and Sens. Cowles and Miller.

LRB-2738/1: Supporting the Department of Natural Resources’ efforts to raise awareness about Lyme disease. By Reps. Mursau and Milroy and Sens. Cowles and Miller.

LRB-2167/1 and 3339/1: Updating the notice requirement on Renewal with Altered Term policies that apply to Personal Lines Property and Casualty coverages. By Reps. Felzkowski and Doyle and Sens. Craig and Bewley.

LRB-3239: Recognizing June 2019 as Black Music Month in the state of Wisconsin. By Reps. Crowley, Myers, Stubbs, Haywood, Fields and Bowen and Sens. Taylor and Johnson.

LRB-3238 and 3380: Recognizing June 9 to 15, 2019, as Army Week in Wisconsin. By Rep. James and Sen. Kooyenga.

LRB-1688/1: Recognizing July 16 as Atomic Veterans Day in Wisconsin. By Rep. Tusler and Sen. Jacque.


AB 234: Limiting the authority of the state and political subdivisions to regulate certain wireless facilities and authorizing political subdivisions to impose setback requirements for certain mobile service support structures. Referred to Committee on Jobs and the Economy.

AB 235: Exception from local levy limits for political subdivisions receiving certain utility aid payments. Referred to Committee on Energy and Utilities.

SJR 38: Recognizing June 2019 as LGBT Pride Month. Referred to committee on Senate Organization.

SJR 39: Proclaiming May 5th as a Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls. Referred to Committee on Senate Organization.

SJR 40: Recognizing May 6 through May 10, 2019, as Teacher Appreciation Week. Referred to Committee on Senate Organization.

SB 219: Agricultural development loan guarantee program administered by the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority. Referred to Committee on Agriculture, Revenue and Financial Institutions.

SB 220: Use of certain public building restrooms. Referred to Committee on Utilities and Housing.

SB 221: An elector using a W-2 form to establish residence. Referred to Committee on Elections, Ethics and Rural Issues.

SB 222: Grants to technical college districts for nurse aide training and making an appropriation. Referred to Committee on Universities, Technical Colleges, Children and Families.

SB 223: Creating an individual income tax credit for certified nursing assistant training costs. Referred to Committee on Agriculture, Revenue and Financial Institutions.

SB 224: Application of payment for delinquent property tax debt. Referred to Committee on Agriculture, Revenue and Financial Institutions.

SB 225: Establishing a Palliative Care Council. Referred to Committee on Health and Human Services.

SB 226: Requiring a statement relating to food allergies on menus at retail food establishments.
Referred to Committee on Local Government, Small Business, Tourism and Workforce Development.

SB 227: Requiring food allergy posters to be displayed in certain retail food establishments. Referred to Committee on Local Government, Small Business, Tourism and Workforce Development.

SB 228: Marquette University School of Dentistry rural scholarship program and making an appropriation. Referred to Committee on Universities, Technical Colleges, Children and Families.

SB 229: The school district revenue limit adjustment for energy efficiency projects. Referred to Committee on Education.

SB 230: Teacher preparatory programs and granting rule-making authority. Referred to Committee on Universities, Technical Colleges, Children and Families.

SB 231: Placing, possessing, or transporting a bow or crossbow in or on a motorboat, vehicle, all-terrain vehicle, or utility terrain vehicle. Referred to Committee on Sporting Heritage, Mining and Forestry.

SB 232: Termination of parental rights; the rights of alleged fathers in certain proceedings; and payments allowed in connection with an adoption. Referred to Committee on Universities, Technical Colleges, Children and Families.

SB 233: Withholding from a Wisconsin Retirement System lump sum payment or annuity to satisfy an order of restitution. Referred to Committee on Government Operations, Technology and Consumer Protection.

SB 234: Limiting condemnation payments made by a county or a redevelopment or community development authority. Referred to Committee on Utilities and Housing.

SB 235: Stalking. Referred to Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety.

SB 236: Charging facility grant program and making an appropriation. Referred to Committee on Utilities and Housing.

SB 237: Persons who use medical marijuana legally and possession of a firearm and confidentiality of the registry status of a person on a medical marijuana registry. Referred to Committee on Public Benefits, Licensing and State-Federal Relations.

SB 238: Records retained by circuit courts. Referred to Committee on Insurance, Financial Services, Government Oversight and Courts.

Track bills for free:

Journal Sentinel: GOP lawmaker displayed holstered gun to Democratic aide in area of Capitol where weapons are banned

Capital Times: Wisconsin budget committee passes GOP-backed $500 million increase in K-12 funding

Capital Times: Rep. Jimmy Anderson wants AG Kaul to weigh in on his lame-duck session complaint

WPR: Republicans, Democrats Introduce Bills Addressing Fire Foam Use

AP: Wisconsin lawmakers take aim at potentially toxic chemicals

Reuters: U.S. unveils espionage charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

Politico: White House denies Trump storming out of meeting was a stunt

Politico: Senate finalizes deal on disaster aid package

New York Times: Trump Gives Farmers $16 Billion in Aid Amid Prolonged China Trade War

Washington Post: Pelosi says Trump wants to be impeached and is angry that House Democrats are not moving in that direction


No events listed

All rights reserved. Reproduction or retransmission of this publication, in whole or in part, without the express permission of is prohibited. Unauthorized reproduction violates United States copyright law (17 USC 101 et seq.), as does retransmission by facsimile or any other electronic means, including electronic mail.