TO THE HONORABLE MEMBERS OF THE ASSEMBLY: I have approved Assembly Bill 323 as 2003 Wisconsin Act 228 and have deposited it in the Office of the Secretary of State. I have vetoed Section 64 and exercised partial vetoes in Sections 4, 5, 6, 7, 63 and 67 [as it relates to s. 77.89(2)(b)].
Assembly Bill 323 makes several modifications to the Managed Forest Land Program. The bill changes the rates and distribution of taxes and fees collected from owners of land enrolled in the program, makes changes relating to the designation of enrolled land, creates enforcement mechanisms, and changes certain administrative procedures and fees. The bill helps offset the loss of local property tax revenue from land enrolled in the program by adjusting the payments from landowners to more accurately reflect the growth in statewide property taxes charged for forested land. The bill also directs a portion of payment revenue currently retained by the Department of Natural Resources to municipalities and counties.
Sections 4, 5, 6, 7, 63, 64 and 67 [as it relates to s. 77.89(2)(b)] divide the closed acreage fee revenue between municipalities (80 percent) and counties (20 percent) in which closed land is located. The timing of the change is ambiguous due to conflicting language and could create a deficit in the forestry account of the conservation fund. I am vetoing Section 64 and partially vetoing Sections 4, 5, 6, 7, 63 and 67 [as it relates to s. 77.89(2)(b)] to eliminate the changes in the distribution of closed acreage fee revenue. The effect of this partial veto is to forward all closed acreage fee revenue to the department for deposit to the forestry account as under current law.
I support improving the administration of the program and assisting municipalities and counties to offset the local revenue impact of the program. However, a partial veto is necessary to ensure that the statutorily defined goals of the program are protected. It is important to ensure that Wisconsin's citizens have sufficient access to land for recreation, in particular, hunting. As originally proposed, this bill had a mechanism to address this concern, but it was removed by the Legislature. I am requesting that the department consider, in developing its 2005-07 biennial budget request, restoring the provision to distribute revenues from closed acreage fees to offset the impact of the increase in closed acres. In order to maintain the goals of the original legislation, the program will be administered by a managed forest land board consisting of representatives of local town and county governments, the Wisconsin Chief Forester as well as other interested groups or individuals. The board will be charged with providing grants to local governments, the department and non-profit conservation organizations. The grants are to be used to acquire land for hunting, fishing, hiking, sight seeing and cross country skiing. As part of this program the board shall ensure the use of sound forestry practices on all lands acquired. Finally, priority for these grants should be given to counties as well as to towns and counties with higher numbers of closed acres. At no time should grants be awarded without approval from the board of the county where the land is being acquired. Respectfully submitted, JIM DOYLE Governor