Governor Unveils 2013-15 State Budget
On February 20, Governor Walker presented his budget for the 2013-15 biennium, which begins on July 1, 2013. The budget bill (Assembly Bill 40) now goes to the Joint Committee on Finance (JFC). The JFC will begin holding public hearings in several weeks and make its own modifications to the Governor's proposal before sending it to the full Legislature sometime in May.
On the spending side, the proposed budget increases spending by 3% in the first year of the biennium and 2.1% in the second year. On the revenue side, the budget cuts income taxes on middle income payers by $343 million (2.2% overall) and freezes property taxes.
Budget issues of particular interest to the WCC include the following:
Education: Provide bonuses for public schools that are excelling or visibly improving. Expand the voucher program to nine new school districts and increase voucher payments. Create a new Special Needs Scholarship Program for students with special needs who wish to attend private or other public schools. Increase funding for the Boys & Girls Club After Three Initiative, which teaches study skills and provides intensive tutoring and career counseling.
Medicaid: Maintain Medicaid funding, but reject federal funds for Medicaid expansion. Modify eligibility criteria for nondisabled, non-elderly adults.
Mental Health: Increase state funding for mental health services for both children and adults, and establish an Office of Children's Mental Health.
Wisconsin Works: Increase worker training and job assistance to adult FoodShare recipients for FoodShare and enforce federal benefit limits for able-bodied, non-elderly adults. Fund new performance-based W-2 contracts.
Transitional Jobs: Create a more flexible Trail Employment Match Program (TEMP) to replace trial jobs and expand it to noncustodial parents. Also create a similar program for Milwaukee, known as Transform Milwaukee.
Worker Training: Increase funding to the University of Wisconsin and technical college systems to train students for jobs in high demand.
Child Care: Increase subsidy reimbursement to child care providers that receive four stars under the YoungStar rating system.
Foster Care: Increase foster care rates and extend foster care to age 21 for youth who are making progress in school.
Rent-to-Own: Exempt rent-to-own companies from the Wisconsin Consumer Act.
Domestic Violence: Increase funding for Milwaukee's Family Justice Center to provide shelter and services for parents and children experiencing domestic abuse. Help fund construction of a new shelter at the Domestic Abuse Intervention Services Center in Madison. A separate non-budget item includes a proposed GPS tracking program for first-time offenders with restraining orders.
Once WCC staff completes its review of the budget, additional details will appear in the Capital Update.
WCC Supports Expanding Choice in Education and Protecting Health Care for Poor
The WCC issued a press release in support of Governor Walker's budget proposal to expand parental choice programs and create the Special Needs Scholarship Program. The WCC also supports the greater attention and assistance that will be given to persons suffering from mental illness and to victims of domestic violence. However, the WCC has concerns about the Governor's proposal to restructure Wisconsin's Medicaid system.
Registration Continues for Catholics at the Capitol
The registration form is now available for Catholics at the Capitol to be held on Wednesday, April 10, 2013, at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center in Madison. The keynote speaker will be the Most Reverend Peter F. Christensen.
Registration is $37 per person and includes a continental breakfast and lunch. Full-time students can register for $12. The registration deadline is April 1, 2013. Registration materials are available on our website: www.wisconsincatholic.org.
New Bills of Interest
SB-18. Child Abuse (Joint Legislative Council) Recodifies child abuse and neglect reporting law, expands list of mandated reporters, and mandates training. To Health and Human Services.
SB-38. Medical Assistance (Erpenbach) Medical Assistance for certain adults who are not currently eligible for traditional Medicaid or BadgerCare. To Health and Human Services.
AB 17. Adoption (Larson) Restoring information from an original birth certificate after adoption. To Children and Families.
AB-40. Budget (Joint Finance Committee) State finances and appropriations. To Finance, Tax Exemptions, and Retirement Systems.