hist103844Wisconsin Act 9 Assembly Bill 56 July 4, 2019 hist103863Wisconsin Act 10 Assembly Bill 251 July 4, 2019
Governor’s Veto Message
July 3, 2019
To the Honorable Members of the Assembly:
I have approved Assembly Bill 56 as 2019 Wisconsin Act 9 and deposited it in the Office of the Secretary of State.
This past January, I delivered my first State of the State address. I noted then—and have repeated many times since—a phrase that is inscribed on the ceiling in the Governor’s conference room: “The will of the people is the law of the land.”
It was in the spirit of these words that we crafted a budget—The People’s Budget—that represents the will of the people of Wisconsin. Our proposal, written by and with the people of our state, fully funded our schools and provided the largest-ever increase in funding for special education, expanded Medicaid and infused our healthcare system with millions of dollars to improve healthcare for all Wisconsinites by drawing down $1.6 billion in new federal funds, and offered a sustainable, long-term solution on transportation that ensured Wisconsinites would not have to foot the entire bill for fixing our roads.
Unfortunately, this budget that I have now signed is, in many ways, insufficient.
This is, in large part, due to the unfortunate lack of interest by some Republicans in the Legislature to work together and engage in constructive, bipartisan dialogue, and instead devoting far too much time to huffing and puffing. I met with 125 out of 132 legislators during the budget process, including 75 Republicans, and my administration has been ready, willing, and available to work together to find common ground, make changes, and work toward solutions. I believe the people of our state would have been better off in this budget if we could have found more common ground, even if it meant each of us not getting everything we wanted. But Republican leadership often chose political allegiance and scoring political points over the people of our state, and that is reflected in the budget that arrived on my desk.
Consequently, in recent weeks, I strongly considered vetoing the Legislature’s entire budget because it did not do enough to ensure that our kids and schools have the resources they need to be successful. I believe it falls short of the proposal we offered. I believe the people of Wisconsin deserve more. And I believe we could do better.
But when I ran for this office, I said it was time for a change, and I made promises to the people of Wisconsin. I promised I would put politics aside to get things done. I promised I would lead with kindness, compassion, civility, and respect. And I promised I would put people first.
In the Governor’s conference room, opposite the inscription about the will of the people, there is another inscription that reads, “The progress of a state is born in temperance, justice, and prudence.”
When I took the oath of office just a few months ago, I incurred two important obligations as the Governor of our state. The first is an obligation to remember for whom I work—to ensure that the will of the people is the law of the land. And the second is an obligation to remember that progress is not beget by political pettiness, but by finding common ground.
Vetoing this budget in its entirety would have been more of the same divisiveness and petty, political theatrics that the people of Wisconsin have had to put up with for far too long.
And vetoing this budget in its entirety would have meant failing to acknowledge that because of the budget we—the people of Wisconsin and I—proposed together, Republicans finally took a step forward in making the investments required for progress to occur.
Thus, I am exercising my broad constitutional authority to reshape this budget, to address areas where the Legislature failed to do the right thing or padded the budget with earmarks to buy votes, and to align it more closely with the budget we put together with the people of Wisconsin. This budget is a down payment on The People’s Budget and the priorities of the people of Wisconsin. Today I am signing a better version of the Legislature’s budget with the understanding that we are nowhere near where we need to be, and there is more work for us to do.
I have always said that there is more that unites us than divides us, so I will begin on the areas we were able to find common ground.
Our administration was able to both set and shape the parameters of this budget to ensure it was fiscally responsible while still making investments in many areas on which we can all agree and adding a record nearly $300 million to our budget stabilization (“rainy day”) fund.
This budget makes good on my promise to deliver a 10 percent tax cut for working families. I vetoed a previous attempt by the Legislature to pass a middle-class tax cut similar to the one I promised because the decision needed to be made in the full context of the budget. Because of the bipartisan work that occurred at the end of the Joint Committee on Finance process, we now have a proposal that achieves the tax relief I promised. That is why I am proud this budget and Assembly Bill 251, together, include $500 million in overall tax cuts targeted not for those at the top of the income spectrum, but toward working, middle-class Wisconsinites across our state. This tax cut exemplifies what can happen when Republicans and Democrats work together to do what is best for the people of our state.
Similarly, this budget also accepts some of the strong investments included in The People’s Budget and builds on the work my administration has done administratively and through executive action. Following my efforts to establish a Caregivers Taskforce, this budget includes a much-needed pay increase I have supported for the personal care workers and direct caregivers who toil day and night to take care of our most vulnerable and in-need Wisconsinites. In addition, because of my leadership counties are getting the largest-ever increase, $30.5 million over the biennium, in Children and Family Aids to support the child welfare system.
This budget also invests in our workers. Whether they are reviewing license applications or tax filings, helping people access life-saving services, working to protect wildlife and our environment, or ensuring folks can reenter our communities with the skills they need to be successful, their work matters, and they have earned the pay increase that is part of our budget. I also look forward to elevating employee voices and continuing to look for ways to support their service to our state.
And because I declared 2019 as the Year of Clean Drinking Water in Wisconsin, this budget invests more than $32.65 million in improving water quality throughout our state. These investments are important, but they do not go far enough to address the serious issues impacting our communities. Through my role as the Chair of the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers, I will continue to lead with my colleagues throughout the region to address water contaminants like lead and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). I will also continue to work with legislators in both parties to make progress legislatively. In the meantime, I have directed my administration to connect the dots on improving water quality. More than two-thirds of Wisconsin residents use groundwater for their drinking water, whether through a private well or public water system. Working collaboratively, the leaders at the Department of Natural Resources, Department of Health Services, and Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection developed evidence-based statewide groundwater standards to protect and ensure clean groundwater resources. The standards we have set are among the most comprehensive in the nation and are used for regulating facilities, practices and activities that can affect groundwater. They apply to bottled water, approved agricultural chemicals, contamination site cleanup, regulation of solid waste landfills and more, including PFAS compounds.
The budget I am signing invests roughly $570 million more in our K-12 students, which includes nearly $100 million more in per pupil aid for our schools compared to the budget passed by the Legislature that I have added through the veto process. This budget also includes the first significant increase in revenue limit authority in a decade, and includes my recommendation to provide our lowest-spending districts with a little more funding without having to go to referendum. It remains critically important that our state address the underfunding of our public school system, and while the increases in this budget are important, they are not enough.
Our transportation system has been neglected for much of the past decade and is in desperate need of sustainable investments. I promised the people of Wisconsin that I would provide the leadership it took to fix our roads and bring people together to find a long-term solution on which everyone could agree. For too long, Republicans punted on difficult decisions and allowed our infrastructure to crumble because they lacked the principled leadership it takes to increase revenues when it is needed. Putting projects on the state’s credit card isn’t sustainable. I am pleased that Republicans followed my lead in working toward paying for our infrastructure, something they were unwilling to do over the last eight years. My budget proposal set the standard for investment and the Legislature joined me in supporting more than $465 million in new funding for our highways, local roads, and transit aids. Notably, just as I recommended in my budget in February, $320 million of this critical revenue, will go directly for state highway rehabilitation. In addition, we will finally finish projects like the Zoo Interchange in Milwaukee County and make significant investments in initiatives that I support, including both passenger and freight rail. This budget also mirrors my 10 percent increase in general transportation aids, paratransit aid, and the tribal elderly transportation grant program, while also providing an inflationary bump to mass transit aids for the first time in years. We will also invest in our harbors, railroads and air traffic control system, all while keeping bonding at the lowest level in 20 years. Perhaps most importantly, this transportation budget recognizes the importance of increasing funding for local transportation and transit projects to ensure that local elected officials are able to respond to the needs of Wisconsin communities.
The Legislature also followed my lead on many other initiatives that were included in The People’s Budget. That includes critical investments that make our communities healthier and safer, move us forward on comprehensive criminal justice reform, protect our natural resources, strengthen our workforce and promote economic development, and support our farmers.
• Protects the state’s vital safety net programs including BadgerCare, FoodShare, the SeniorCare pharmacy benefit program, and the Supplemental Security Income and Caretaker supplements.
• In recognition of the direct care workforce shortages in the state, this budget provides over $230 million to support workers who provide direct care to Wisconsin's most vulnerable citizens in Family Care, nursing homes, and individuals receiving personal care services.
• Improves mental health treatment in our state by: (1) funding a portion of the non-federal share of the Medicaid Crisis Intervention benefit with $13.3 million; (2) allowing the Crisis Program Enhancement grants to be used to establish or expand a crisis program; (3) providing $500,000 for the Child Psychiatry Consultation Program; (4) providing $100,000 for suicide prevention activities; (5) expanding the definition of crisis to include any crisis not just a mental health crisis; and (6) increases reimbursement levels by providing $500,000 for mental health professions related to clinical consultations.
• Fully funds the Wisconsin Healthcare Stability Plan to stabilize the individual healthcare market and lower premiums for Wisconsinites by providing $200 million to reinsure high-cost individuals across all healthcare exchanges.
• Makes significant investments into treatment for Wisconsin's youth by providing an additional $44 million to expand the Mendota Juvenile Treatment Center by 50 beds.
• Addresses long-standing safety issues at the Winnebago Mental Health Institute by providing 51 additional positions and $11.3 million over the biennium to better manage the intake process at the facility.
• Makes important investments in Wisconsin’s rural healthcare providers by increasing funding by $9.9 million for the Rural Critical Care Hospital Supplement.
• Streamlines the application process for children’s long-term care supports programs for children with intellectual or physical disabilities by implementing a statewide contract for intake, application, and screening functions.
• Provides $2.5 million over the biennium to increase reimbursement rates for dental services that are provided under Medicaid to individuals with intellectual or physical disabilities.
• Expands dental access, provides additional coverage option, and increases funding levels for the Seal-A-Smile program by providing $2 million over the biennium.
• Invests $14.2 million in lead testing and abatement and begins to address the issue of childhood lead poisoning.
• Provides $1.7 million over the biennium for 8 additional dementia care specialists and 1 tribal dementia care specialist in Aging and Disability Resource Centers.
• Increases funding by nearly 5 percent annually for health screening services through the Wisconsin Well Woman Program.
• Provides $1 million over the biennium for grants to free and charitable clinics and community health centers.
• Invests in the ombudsman program in the Wisconsin Board on Aging and Long-Term Care to address the increasing caseload of persons age 60 and older who are consumers of Wisconsin long-term care programs.
• Increases funding by $1.5 million over the biennium for the Wisconsin Veterans Home at King and the Wisconsin Veterans Home at Union Grove to provide supplemental nursing resources to the homes that care for Wisconsin veterans who need a nursing home level of care.
• Provides nearly $30 million, the largest state-funded increase ever, to support programs for Wisconsin veterans.
• Permanently supports the Veterans Outreach and Recovery Program, which connects veterans to community services and provides case management and support to veterans who have a mental health condition or substance abuse disorder.
• Provides $1.8 million over the biennium to fully fund a peer-run respite center for veterans, which will provide peer support services and hospital diversion services at no cost to veterans struggling with a mental health or substance abuse disorder.
• Provides $3.9 million over the biennium to fully fund a youth crisis stabilization facility that will provide residential mental health services to children whose needs are greater than what is available in their community but not severe enough to warrant commitment to an institution.
• Provides $100,000 for a science-based public outreach effort related to vaccinations.
• Invests $2 million to expand the family medicine residency program of the Medical College of Wisconsin to support new faculty positions to increase the number of residents in the program, and ultimately retain more physicians in the state.
• Continues our commitment to the Medical College of Wisconsin by providing $10 million in bonding authority for a new cancer research center that will allow the college to hire additional researchers, develop new therapies, and expand and consolidate laboratories, with the goal of bringing cancer cures to Wisconsin residents.
• Provides $7.5 million over the biennium to support programming that will directly reduce homelessness across the state.
• Provides $640,000 of tribal gaming revenue to fund architectural plans for a 36-bed residential facility to treat addiction in youth, primarily youth in Wisconsin tribes, which is being developed by the Stockbridge-Munsee and the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council.
Safe and Just Communities
• Increases the private bar rate for the Office of the State Public Defender, for the first time since 1992, from $40 per hour to $70 per hour to provide our citizens with prompt representation and save our counties money.
• Provides over 60 new full-time assistant district attorneys across the state, which is the first time the state has created any new full-time GPR-funded positions since 2007.
• Invests in the State Crime Lab at the Department of Justice by providing it with 7.4 FTE positions to address long-standing backlogs that were previously ignored.
• Provides $1.5 million in additional funding for our successful Treatment Alternatives and Diversion (TAD) program, taking it to its highest funding level ever at over $13 million over the biennium.
• Increases funding for our Opening Avenues to Reentry Success (OARS) program to expand it to 51 counties and by an additional 50 individuals.
• Invests in our correctional facilities to ensure they have the staffing necessary to carry out their duties to adequately staff newly created programs and reduce overtime.
• Provides funding to work towards meeting the state’s obligations to close Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake schools and moving youth into the least restrictive appropriate setting as soon as practicable.
What’s Best for Kids
• Doubles state support for school mental health programs over the biennium to provide increased access to professionals to assist children in our schools in need.
• Provides nearly $330 million, the largest nominal dollar increase in state general aid since the 2005-07 biennium.
• Increases state special education categorical aid funding for the first time since 2008-09 by providing over $95 million over the biennium in additional state support.
• Provides over a quarter of our lower-spending school districts the ability to increase their revenues if they choose without having to go to referendum.
• Provides the largest revenue limit adjustment for all school districts in a decade, which, over the biennium, provides districts with an increase in spending flexibility that is larger than all revenue limit increases over the prior eight years combined.
• Through my vetoes this budget will increase per pupil state categorical aids by nearly $100 million over the biennium.
• Increases the state share of the school day milk program for the first time in more than a decade, which reimburses school districts for serving milk to students daily.
• Doubles state support for robotics league participation grants, which helped 180 middle school and high school teams across the state offset the cost of fees, kits and supplies necessary to participate in robotics competitions, to $500,000 annually.
• Provides $1.4 million over the biennium for the Wisconsin Reading Corps, which provides one-on-one reading tutoring to our youngest students, particularly in Milwaukee, where achievement gaps persist.
• Increases high cost transportation aid for rural districts by $1.6 million over the biennium to raise reimbursement rates to 90 percent of eligible costs.
• Enhances our rural teacher talent program, which provided placements, stipends and/or travel reimbursement to approximately 700 student teachers last year, by providing $2 million in additional funding over the biennium.
• Further increases school library aids by $5.7 million over the biennium, which will help school districts purchase books, instructional materials, library computers and software.
• Increases state aid for our Very Special Arts and Special Olympics programs by 33 percent over their existing funding levels.
• Invests $5.5 million over the biennium to support work-based learning for high school students, where demand for our local youth apprenticeship program continues to grow – the number of participating students has increased 94 percent over the past five years.
• Doubles state support by providing $3 million annually for school districts to continue to increase offerings for career and technical education as the number of claims for these grants more than doubled from 2014 to 2018.
• Provides $1 million over the biennium to assist school districts in purchasing equipment for advanced manufacturing classes and programs.
• Increases funding for county-run child welfare programs by more than $30 million over the biennium, the largest increase in history.
• Provides over $85 million over the biennium to support increases to the Wisconsin Shares child care program.
• Provides $1.4 million in targeted investment over the biennium for improved child care options in the poorest zip code of the state, 53206 in Milwaukee.
• More than doubles the amount of funding to the Boys and Girls Clubs to expand the BE GREAT: Graduate program by providing $2.7 million in each year to help more Wisconsin students graduate.
• Provides an increase of $2.25 million over the biennium to support county child support agencies in their work to establish and enforce child support orders.
Higher Education and Workforce
• Increases state general aid for the Wisconsin Technical College System by $25 million, the largest nominal increase since at least 1993.
• Trains offenders for reentry and employment by providing funding from Wisconsin Fast Forward to the Department of Corrections that could be used for institutional job centers and mobile classrooms.
• Commits over $1 billion in bonding authority, the largest nominal increase ever, to modernize aging University of Wisconsin buildings and improve learning environments, which will help the system attract and retain students, faculty, and researchers.
• Provides $45 million over the biennium to the University of Wisconsin (UW) System for capacity building initiatives, while continuing to freeze resident undergraduate tuition to keep higher education affordable and mitigate student debt. Additionally, this investment in the UW will help the system use innovative programs to enroll more students and produce more graduates in high-demand fields.
• Continues to support worker training activities to boost Wisconsin’s economy through our Fast Forward program and investing in Project SEARCH, which supports collaboration among school districts and local businesses that provide training and education youth with disabilities need to obtain employment.