April Legislative Update

Legislative Joint Finance Committee Wrapping Up Public Hearings Next Week

The legislature’s budget-writing committee, the Joint Finance Committee, continues to work on rewriting the Governor’s 2023-25 state budget. The committee has held three public hearings so far, with one more scheduled for next week, Wednesday, April 26, 2023 Lakeland Union High School, 9573 State Highway 70, Minocqua. Consistent topics at the public hearings include, education (both K-12 and charter/choice) funding, child care funding, UW System supports and shared revenue. WPRA members are encouraged to attend these meetings and discuss the budget items listed on our legislative priorities (linked here).

The public hearings will begin at 10 a.m. and conclude at 5 p.m. Attendees will be asked to fill out a form upon arrival to be added to the queue to testify. Attendees are usually allowed a couple of minutes to testify in order to provide everyone with a chance to testify. Please note that hundreds of people attend our public hearings and the queue is often quite long by mid-morning. If you can’t attend, the JFC members have set up a web portal to receive feedback at https://legis.wisconsin.gov/topics/budgetcomments

Following these hearings, JFC will hold a series of meetings to vote on motions affecting various aspects of the budget bill. This usually occurs around the end of May. At the end of the JFC budget process, all of the committee’s modifications to the governor’s bill are incorporated in a substitute amendment and sent to the full legislature for floor votes in each house.

The legislature generally takes up the bill in June and sends the final product to the governor by the end of the month. The governor will take up to 30 days to review the bill before issuing a decision. As with any other bill, to become law, the state budget must pass both houses of the legislature and be signed by the governor.

Wisconsin’s governor has the power to sign the budget into law while exercising a “partial veto” by removing individual words and reducing numbers to change or eliminate appropriations or statutory language within the budget bill. The governor may also choose to veto the entire budget, but this is exceedingly rare. 

Joint Finance Committee Rejects Largest State Stewardship Project

This week, the legislature’s budget and finance committee voted to reject the Department of Natural Resources request for $4 million. The project includes 56,259 acres along the Pelican River in northern Wisconsin stretches across Oneida, Forest, and Langlade counties with an overall price tag of $15.5 million. The plan for the project included covering the rest of the cost through federal matching grants, gifts and donations. It would keep the property in an undeveloped state and limit subdividing of the land while guaranteeing public access.

Several GOP JFC committee members felt that DNR failed to provide the Natural Resources Board all the information pertaining to the project – specifically the opposition of two communities along the project that voted to oppose the project. 

Democratic member Rep. Evan Goyke pushed back on the “broken process” for review of these projects and the lack of transparency regarding JFC members raising objections to Stewardship projects. Currently, JFC members can object anonymously to any Stewardship project over $250,000 and there is no timeline for the committee to vote after an objection is raised.