WED AM Update: JFC approves nearly $1.9B capital budget

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— The Joint Finance Committee approved a nearly $1.9 billion capital budget, paring back nearly $600 million that Gov. Tony Evers originally wanted to spend on building projects.

More than $1 billion of the GOP capital budget, which was approved 12-4 along party lines, would go to projects in the UW System. That’s slightly less than what Evers originally proposed.

Some of the projects Evers proposed that the committee left off its final document include: $150 million in additional money to fund new juvenile corrections facilities; $98.5 million for the state to build a new office building in Milwaukee; and $83 million for a science center on the UW-La Crosse campus.

A year ago, the Legislature approved a bipartisan plan to close the state’s troubled youth prisons in northern Wisconsin and move to a new approach with regional facilities to house the more serious offenders and new county-run centers for others. The law included $80 million in bonding for those facilities, as well as expanding a treatment center in Dane County.

But Evers had proposed additional bonding as estimates for the county facilities have come in significantly higher than originally anticipated.

The GOP action puts all $80 million of the existing bonding to the county-run facilities while adding $44 million in new bonding to fund changes to the Mendota Mental Health Institute.

Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee, noted there is an urgency to close Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake. But he says the GOP plan essentially hits pause on that plan despite overwhelming agreement a year ago to move to a new system.

“What do you want? Another study? For DOC to come sit in those chairs and tell us what we already know?” said Goyke, who has been involved in a bipartisan group that has worked on the issue. “What are you waiting for?”

Rep. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, said the projects are still enumerated and can be funded later. Republicans just want to continue working with the administration and Dem lawmakers on more details on what the new facilities would look like before approving the money.

— Evers’ capital budget included nearly $1.9 billion in new borrowing. The GOP plan would instead borrow nearly $1.5 billion.

The GOP motion also didn’t include $30 million in general fund-supported borrowing to help Dane County redevelop the Alliant Energy Center

Instead, it included a proposal to create a $25 million grant program with general fund supported borrowing to help non-state organizations with projects.

The committee also included $5 million to begin work on a new maximum security prison in Green Bay. That would include land acquisition, utility extensions and a request for proposal to build the new prison.

Evers didn’t include the project in his budget, saying it was illogical to build a new prison while his administration is looking for ways to reduce the number of people incarcerated in Wisconsin.

Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, questioned if the proposed prison would be privately owned, and the Legislative Fiscal Bureau noted that isn’t specified in the motion.

Born called it an important project considering the age of the prison, which first came into use in 1898. He also touted the proposed $25 million for non-state projections, saying it included the same goals Evers laid out for investing in community projects but made sure it would be a very small part of the capital budget.

“The focus should be investing in state facilities,” he said. “They are our responsibilities.”

See the motion:

See an LFB overview of the differences between the Evers budget and the GOP motion:

— The committee recessed until 9 a.m. tomorrow, when it will begin its final push on the budget with taxes.

Co-chairs Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, and John Nygren, R-Marinette, said after the committee concluded its work last night that there are no plans for a 999 motion, which typically includes a host of policy provisions added to the budget as the committee’s final act.

But they said there may be a motion to “clean up” language in what the committee has approved so far. Republicans have been trying to guard against including language in the budget the guv could use in exercising his partial veto authority to create policies Republicans hadn’t intended.

The committee also voted to:

*approve deleting $2.8 million in program revenue and 41.34 positions from the DOA’s Division of Personnel Management. Republicans said the move was taken after DOA failed to submit a required report detailing efficiencies gained when human resources functions were consolidated under the previous administration.

*require DOA to consult with Madison Police on a study security and safety of the Capitol grounds. The report would have to be submitted to the guv and Legislature by Jan. 1.

*suspend a state law that prohibits passage of any bill if general fund expenditures exceed revenues in the second year of the biennium. The guv’s budget as proposed would’ve spent more in the second year than the state is expected to take in, and the law has been suspended for the last couple of budgets, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

See more on yesterday’s actions in the Budget Blog:

— Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, who said last week the GOP transportation package and the structural deficit threatened his support for the budget, now says the capital budget isn’t helping win him over.

He said excessive spending and bonding was “now the rage in the State Capitol as Republicans try to buy Governor Evers’ support for our version of the budget.”

“Tonight was another win for big spending and a loss for the taxpayers,” Nass said. ” It is becoming more difficult by the day to vote in favor of the budget in two weeks.”

But Sen. Rob Cowles, R-Green Bay, praised the committee for adding positions to address a backlog in issuing wastewater permits for concentrated animal feeding operations.

The positions were considered by some budget watchers a bottom line for Cowles to win his support for the budget.

The push for the positions followed a 2016 audit Cowles requested that detailed the backlog for the permits.

“While this motion doesn’t close the book on the 2016 audit, it moves towards creating a more accountable, effective, and transparent permitting program to achieve improved water quality and provide Wisconsin’s farmers with the regulatory certainty the program currently lacks,” Cowles said.

With a 19-14 majority, Republicans can only lose two members and still pass the budget.

— A trial is now off in one of the two lame-duck cases out of Dane County after the state Supreme Court stayed part of a judge’s ruling in the suit.

Dane County Judge Frank Remington had blocked some provisions Republicans approved in the December extraordinary session, including how state agencies handle guidance documents, and a trial was scheduled to begin today on that provision.

Originally, Republicans wanted agencies to perform a new review of the documents by July 1. Otherwise, they would’ve been rescinded.

The court yesterday was unanimous in keeping in place Remington’s stay on the changes for guidance documents, finding agencies wouldn’t have had time to meet the July 1 deadline because they’ve been operating under his order and assuming the reviews wouldn’t be needed.

The justices also were unanimous in staying Remington’s injunction preventing the Legislature’s Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules being able to suspend administrative rules multiple times.

The case is one of two stemming from the lame-duck session that have made their way to the state Supreme Court. The justices earlier put on hold a separate Dane County judge’s ruling that prevented enforcement of the Legislature’s December actions after he found lawmakers improperly met in extraordinary session. The court has since heard oral arguments in that case.

Cumulatively, the court’s actions in both cases have restored almost all of the extraordinary session actions, at least temporarily.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, hailed the latest ruling, calling it a victory for the people of Wisconsin.

“The Supreme Court correctly decided the statutes enacted by the Legislature should remain in effect,” he said. “We are confident that the constitutionality of these laws will be upheld when the Court hears the full case in the coming months.”

Still, the conservative majority stayed Remington’s injunction preventing enforcement of provisions in the lame-duck session laws prohibiting the AG from settling lawsuits without legislative approval.

Dem AG Josh Kaul has settled some suits since Remington’s stay was issued. That includes a challenge to a Scott Walker-era right-to-work measure that sought to allow employees to cancel automatic payroll deductions for union dues.

“This litigation will continue,” Kaul said of the suit challenging the lame-duck provisions limiting his powers. “We will continue to stand up to the legislature’s unconstitutional attempt to undermine DOJ’s ability to get justice for Wisconsinites.”

Read the ruling:

— Gov. Tony Evers will be in Burlington today to read to kids at the public library during a summer reading program.


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

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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:


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Hours before a trial start, WI Supreme Court reinstates most lame-duck laws

… With a pair of 4-3 [philosophy-line] orders, the high court canceled a trial that was to commence Wednesday and put back in place almost all the lame-duck laws while it considers an appeal [of initial decisions in SEIU case.] 2 provisions remain suspended: early voting limits, required public commenting period for older government docs. Significant provisions restored include AG needing lawmaker approval to settle lawsuits, administration must to take public comments for weeks before publishing certain docs. A federal judge is overseeing another challenge to the lame-duck laws that is in its early stages. Leader Fitzgerald hailed “a win for the people of Wisconsin. … We are confident that the constitutionality of these laws will be upheld when the court hears the full case in the coming months.” Evers’ atty. Pines denounced slow response, “it’s important for the public to know if they send an email about how to comply with the law that it is entirely possible that the response to the email will be substantially delayed.” Rehash suits, limits to AG powers.

JFC OKs $1.9B in building projects, including $1B for UW campuses

… [on 12-4 party line] pared back … Evers’ $2.5B request, cutting $30M for redevelopment of the Alliant Energy Center [JFC Dem Taylor: “I knew this was a longshot.”] … and two projects at UW-La Crosse, among others. … overall [capital budget] size … drew some praise from Democrats who said the $1.9B number showed Republicans were following Evers’ lead. JFC co-chair Nygren said Building Commission process is broken, cited project lobbying, “I think it’s bad for the taxpayer. But at the same time, I know that (the state) needs an influx of investment.” Sen. Nass previewed GOP hesitation, noted it broke Doyle’s $1.7B bonding record, “Excessive spending and bonding is now the rage in the State Capitol as Republicans try to buy Governor Evers’ support for our version of the budget. Tonight was another win for big spending and a loss for the taxpayers.” UW System Pres. Cross statement “deeply appreciates” safety/modernization update, “This long-term investment will help attract and retain more students and faculty.” Rehash BC blowup, UW chancellors’ PR press for UWEC “Frankenstein building”, UWM chem hall, UW vet med school [all of which won funding]. UW chancellor Blank: “they heard our needs and responded with their support. We are grateful … look forward to these projects moving forward quickly.” Other UW projects listed. JFC dramatically cut Evers’ plan for smaller facilities to replace Lincoln Hills, prompting JFC Dem GOyke to predict further delay in 2021 closing date. JFC approved $44M upgrade to Mendota Juvenile, $70M bond for Historical Society, DOA/MPD study on Capitol safety [a nat’l trend. JFC GOP Olsen: “It’s good common sense. Why wouldn’t you want to do this?”]

JFC OKs parts of Evers’ proposals for land stewardship, parks, CAFOs

On 12-4 party line approved 2-year Stewardship extension. Co-chair Darling: “People love the stewardship program, but you have to realize it comes at a high cost. We’re trying to be fiscally responsible.” JFC approved a $1.2M more for park staffing and operations [Evers $1.9M], as parks struggle through Walker shift to fees support. Rehash Walker-era Stewardship limits, accruing debt. JFC, after long resistance, approved Evers’ CAFO fees and left regs with DNR, after LFB showed feds authorize only DNR to regulate clean water. Joint Audit co-chair Cowles statement said decision should have been easier, added DNR staff will bolster a vital permitting system. JFC also hiked [less than Evers’] funding for forest fire protection grants and forestry research.

Vos: Fee Increases Will Not Exceed Tax Cut In State Budget

… Speaking at a Wisconsin Health News forum in Madison Tuesday, Vos anticipated the Republican-controlled Legislature could pass the full state budget and have it on Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ desk by the end of June. … [said full veto] could jeopardize health care increases that both parties support … “some of the (health care) increases we have given would be harder to get through a second time” … said any possible override votes would not come until fall. … [credited Evers with “a win” on pulling out of ACA lawsuit] and because of that we know probably Obamacare isn’t going away. It wasn’t able to be repealed by the federal government. Whether I like it or not that Obamacare is there, we might as well utilize it for the best interests of our citizens.” Vos favored folks buying ACA Marketplace policies to Medicaid expansion.

Republicans might not return until October if Tony Evers vetoes full budget

… [but full budget veto means previous budget carries on] “The longer we operate under the old budget, the more I think an awful lot of the people in the state of Wisconsin say, ‘Wait a minute, why are you increasing spending in the way that you did?'” Vos said. … Overriding an Evers veto would be a heavy lift, requiring some Democratic support in both chambers of the Legislature. Vos said budget goal “would be to have reductions in taxes that would equal any revenues or beyond any revenues that were created.”

Vos says GOP tax cut would counter fee hikes in road plan, tax on e-cigs possible

… pledged that taxes won’t increase overall in the next biennial budget … as Republican legislative leaders are weighing a $400 million middle-class tax cut plan. … not opposed to taxing e-cigarettes, though … Evers’ level [71% of MSRP] is “too high.” … he’ll work with his Senate GOP colleagues “to see what number is reasonable.”

WEC [unanimously] delays deactivation of voters who appear to move

… As part of the ERIC [postcard] program, the Elections Commission in 2018 first deactivated 308,000 voters from the rolls. … voters whom election officials believe no longer live at their registered address [through non-response to postcard] … Under the commission’s new plan, deactivation will take place between 12 and 24 months, giving voters more time to comply.

Restaurants, hotels don’t have enough workers ready for the DNC rush in 2020

… Hiring in the restaurant industry is difficult right now. More than 4,000 positions in the area are advertised on one of the largest job sites, Indeed. Hospitality businesses in Milwaukee say they don’t have enough workers ready … “We can’t keep a dishwasher if our lives depended on it,” [restaurateur] Jacobs said. He’s raised pay for dishwashers to $11 an hour — what he said line cooks earned just a few years ago. … “If we don’t try something, we are going to risk failure at a service industry level in our city when we’re at our peak usage and a critical time when we’re trying to sell our city,” said Gary Witt, CEO of The Pabst Theater Group. … “It’s ships passing in the night — people looking for employees and the people looking for jobs,” said Mayor Tom Barrett. … [near Fiserv Forum] Four new places to eat or drink opened in the past few months: Punch Bowl Social, Drink Wisconsinbly, Mecca Sports Bar and Grill, and Good City Brewing. WRA’s Quam, Marcus Corp’s Martin, Council pres. Hamilton, DNC’s Gassaway, several proprietors comment.

Foxconn may broaden range of products made at Wisconsin factory

… development came as Foxconn, which draws more than half its revenue from Apple Inc., signaled that it could move iPhone production outside China, its main manufacturing base. … speaking in Taiwan to analysts at a rare investor conference, key Foxconn [semiconductor] executive Young Liu [favored to replace Gou] pointed to the importance of the Wisconsin project. Rehash Foxconn in WI to-date.


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– 9:30 a.m. – 12 p.m.: Governor’s Bicycle Coordinating Council meeting.

– 10 a.m.: PSC hearing.

– 11 a.m.: Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy public hearing on SB 251, relating to exception from local levy limits for political subdivisions receiving certain utility aid payments.

– 11 a.m.: PSC hearing.

– 1 p.m.: Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules public hearing.

– 1:05 p.m.: Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules executive session on EmR 1831, relating to the Wisconsin Health Care Stability Plan, and other rules.

– 1:30 p.m.: Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety public hearing on AB 188, relating to facilities for holding juveniles in secure custody.

– 2 p.m.: Speaker’s Task Force on Water Quality public hearing. Mauston.

– 2 p.m.: PSC hearing.

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