Legislative Update – February 13

Governor Walker has released details of his 2017-19 state budget proposal. Some key provisions include:

Act 10                              

  • Notwithstanding section 115.437 (3) of the statutes, in each of the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years, the department of public instruction may not pay per pupil aid under section 115.437 (3) of the statutes to a school district unless the school district certifies to the department of public instruction that employees of the school district will be required to pay at least 12 percent of all costs and payments associated with employee health care coverage plans in that school year.

Higher Ed

  • Eliminate the Educational Approval Board, which regulates for-profit higher education institutions. Lawmakers stripped that proposal out from the 2015-17 budget.

Lifetime licenses for teachers and administrators

  • Permanent teaching and administrator licenses, something Wisconsin moved away from in 1983. Senate Majority Leader Fitzgerald said he’s “not sure why the governor” proposed the change, and State Superintendent Tony Evers questioned the move. The perpetual teaching license would be created to replace current five-year renewal cycles. The proposal says support would be continued for a “robust educator effectiveness system” that provides regular performance data. The move would save teachers $750 over a 30-year career, the proposal states, and would result in approximately 10 staff cuts (and associated funding) at the Department of Public Instruction.

Per-Pupil Funding

  • Per Pupil Increase. Per-pupil aid payments for public school students would increase $200 in fiscal year 2017-18 and $204 in 2018-19. Overall, the governor proposes a plan to provide $648,892,200 over the biennium per pupil aid increase: $197,417,300 in FY2017-18, $451,474,900 in FY2018-19, which includes $10,100,000 in FY2017-18 and $20,200,000 in FY2018-19 be funded with savings from self-insurance health benefits for state employees.  Per pupil aid payments will increase $200 FY2017-18 and $204 in FY2018-19.  School districts would be required to certify they are compliant with 2011 Wisconsin Act 10 to receive the aid, and the aid must go directly to individual school buildings.

Revenue Limits

  • Energy efficiency exemption in revenue limits. Mitigate property tax increases by eliminating future energy efficiency exemption in revenue limits. School districts would need to go to referendum for energy efficiency projects outside operational budgets.

Self-insurance for state employees

  • The Group Insurance Board voted to move forward with self-insuring state employees, just hours before Gov. Scott Walker delivered his budget address which incorporated the anticipated savings. The decision, which board members approved 10-1, needs approval from the state’s Joint Finance Committee once the contracts are drawn up. About 22,000 of WEA Trust’s 82,000 members are in the state worker health plan. AFSCME criticized the plan, saying that with a new administration in Washington promising to upend the nation’s health care system now is the wrong time for Wisconsin to roll the dice on a risky rewrite of its own system.

Taxes

  • Property Taxes. End the state-portion of the property tax levy – thereby eliminating one source of ongoing property tax increases. A sum sufficient appropriation will be established to ensure continued funding for forestry programs equal to the amount that the state-levied property tax would have raised.
  • Income Taxes. Cut individual income taxes by reducing the tax imposed on the first $37,450 of taxable income for married-joint filers and the first $28,900 for single filers.
  • Income Taxes. Reduce the bottom two tax brackets – the bottom bracket will go from 4% to 3.9%; the next bracket will be reduced from 5.84% to 5.74% and the bracket will be expanded by 25%.

Teacher licensure

  • Reform teacher licensure to reduce the cost of teaching by more than $750 over a 30-year career and reduce the administrative burden of five-year renewal cycles for teachers and school administrators. Create a perpetual teaching license (except in cases of misconduct) and continue support for a robust educator effectiveness system that provides schools and teachers with regular performance data. In recognition of the reduced workload for the Department of Public Instruction, eliminate 10.0 FTE positions and associated funding.

Technical Colleges

  • Amending performance-based funding for technical colleges. The budget would maintain the 30 percent portion of state aid distrusted based on performance, but would modify it to include weighted-scale categories: affordability and attainment, workforce readiness, student success in the workforce, and efficiency.

Vouchers

  • Per-pupil aid payments for voucher school students would increase $217 each year. The governor provides for fully funding of expected changes in privately run charter schools, vouchers, and for special needs vouchers.
  • The proposed changes for the choice programs include:
    • Eliminating some benchmarks that historically have not been used to disqualify a school from the program;
    • Permitting DPI to bar a school from the program for misrepresentation;
    • Allowing pupils who are applying to the program to receive an income eligibility determination from the Department of Revenue;
    • Allowing some information now required to be provided by schools annually to be turned over only if DPI requests it;
    • Prohibiting DPI from requiring an annual operating budget submission from continuously participating schools;
    • Requiring charter schools to conduct background checks of teachers every five years;
    • Permitting pupils who attended school in another state the previous year to be eligible; and
    • Making Sept. 15 the deadline for the summer school daily attendance report deadline rather than Oct. 1.