Legislative Update: August 30

The Republican leaders of the Joint Finance Committee have hired a private attorney – at $290 per hour paid by taxpayers – to sign a confidentiality agreement on behalf of the committee for any proposed settlements reached by Attorney General Josh Kaul. The JFC review of any settlements was part of the package of lame duck laws pushed through during the last days of the Walker administration. At first, Republicans refused to sign confidentiality agreements to ensure security on cases involving taxpayers, but then they shifted to hiring the private attorney to act on the JFC’s behalf. Democrats on the committee said they never hired or consented to the legal contract with the attorney.

Bills We’re Watching

  • Minority Teacher Loan Program  (AB 51/SB 55). The Assembly Committee on Universities, Technical Colleges, Children and Families has unanimously passed this bill out of committee. It would allow statewide expansion of a program offering loan forgiveness for minority teachers who teach in schools that have at least 40 percent minority students. Right now, only teachers in Milwaukee schools are eligible for the program. 
  • School Revenue Adjustment (AB-368). The school district revenue limit adjustment for declining enrollment and the prior year base revenue hold harmless adjustment. This bill was referred to the Assembly Education Committee.
  • Sex Abuse Education (SB-347) This bill, requiring sexual abuse prevention education, was referred to the Senate Committee on Education.
    UW Blue Ribbon Commission (SB-355). This bill to create a Blue Ribbon Commission on the University of Wisconsin System was referred to the Senate Committee on Universities, Technical Colleges, Children & Families.

Circulating for Co-Sponsorship

  • Transportation Contracts between Schools and Parents (LRB 2448 and LRB 4086). This would change the way families that have a contract with a school board to transport students are compensated. Under this proposal, the amount of compensation must be a single amount for all pupils residing in the household who attend the same school, rather than the current per pupil amount. This would apply to public and private school pupils, and the requirement applies to the minimum contract amount applicable to the transportation of a private school pupil that costs more than 1.5 times a school district’s average cost.
  • Student Loans (LRB-0278). This re-introduces a proposal to create the Wisconsin Student Loan Refinancing Authority.
  • Lead Testing (LRB-3539). This would require all schools receiving public funding to test for lead in the water, and if remediation is necessary, would allow districts to go to referendum outside of a regularly scheduled election. A companion bill would require water testing for day cares, group homes and summer camps to renew their licenses. 

REVENUES AND TAX COLLECTIONS ANNOUNCED

According to a report released by the Department of Revenue, revenue collections for fiscal year 2019 were 0.44% more than the Legislative Fiscal Bureau May 2019 projection. The report shows that Individual Income, General Sales and Use and Public Utilities were all more than projected for FY2019, while Corporate, Excise, Cigarette, Tobacco, Liquor and Wine, Beer, and Insurance were all less projected. All in all, general purpose revenue tax collections increased 7.4% in FY2019 to $17,341.4 million.

Additionally, the Legislative Fiscal bureau has announced the Preliminary 2018-19 General Fund Tax Collections. LFB says tax collections are $75.5 million above the May 2019 projection. State statutes requires that half of any excess actual general fund tax collections over the estimated be deposited into the budget stabilization fund. In addition, 2017 Act 368 required that the amount of sales and use taxes collected in 2018-19 under the Wayfair decision be excluded from that calculation, meaning $321.7 million will be transferred to the budget stabilization fund. It is now estimated that the general fund balance at the end of 2019-21 will be $74.05 million