Legislative Update – February 14

The week in review:

February 10

  • Senator Luther Olsen will join Representative Joel Kitchens on school funding task force. Kitchens said Olsen will work with the group to look at a revamp of the state school funding formula. Kitchens said there will be a news conference soon with details on the task force and its plan moving forward to overhaul the formula.

February 8

  • Gov. Walker gave his budget addressSome GOP lawmakers expressed reservations about the $649 million Walker wants to pump into K-12 education and his $140 million plan for the UW System, which includes cutting tuition 5 percent for in-state undergrads in the 2018-19 school year. Still, Walker’s plan includes several provisions likely to please conservative members of his own party, including eliminating the prevailing wage on state projects and prohibiting local governments from requiring project labor agreements, which is an idea already embraced in the Senate and moving through the Assembly. He did give a shout-out to WI’s fully funded pension system, something we’re watching to be sure legislators interested in privatizing it don’t move forward. The Legislature is likely to make changes to Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget in the coming months, shifting money to address lawmakers’ priorities, including transportation. On Thursday, Walker predicted a “good chunk” of his budget will pass in some form, but conceded lawmakers are likely to make some changes. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said lawmakers may split with the governor in the areas of K-12 funding, tax cuts, vouchers and self-insurance, among others. Fitzgerald predicted there will be increased K-12 funding in the upcoming biennium, but wouldn’t commit to Walker’s $649 million.
  • Website to support budget launched. Walker also said on issues like his proposed 5 percent tuition cut in the second year of the budget, he hopes constituents will reach out to lawmakers to show their support. To that end, the Wisconsin GOP launched a website pushing supportive Republicans to write letters to the editor and otherwise promote the budget. 
  • The Group Insurance Board voted to move forward with self-insuring state employees. The vote occurred 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.
  • A bill to repeal the school start date mandate, by Representative Jim Ott (R-Mequon) and Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), continued to gain support in the Legislature.

February 7

  • The governor unveiled his UW System funding plan. In it, he proposes a 5 percent tuition cut for all in-state undergraduate students.

February 5

  • The governor unveiled his budget plan for K-12 funding. After cutting nearly $1 billion over his time in office, he is moving sharply in the opposite direction, proposing a half-billion bump in broad state school aid. However, the biggest part of the proposed boost wouldn’t be targeted to districts that need it the most.