July 1 – Fiscal Year Deadline for budget

Currently there is an impasse on the budget and legislators missed the deadline. For now the current fiscal year spending levels will remain in effect which allows state agencies to continue working.  It could cause a real dilemma for Wisconsin school districts if the impasse continues for too long.  They are left hanging as they try to craft their budgets without knowing what they can expect for state aid.

The Republican controlled Assembly and Senate continue to negotiate a compromise.   The major sticking points are how to fund road projects, how to increase funding for K-12 schools and how to cut taxes.

Road Projects:  Gov. Scott Walker and Senate Republicans oppose raising gas taxes to cover long-term shortfalls in road funding. The governor wants to delay some projects and borrow $500 million to cover others, repaying the loans with money from the gas tax.

Senate Republicans want to borrow an additional $350 million and repay that money using income and sales taxes normally used to pay for schools and health care. Walker also backs that basic approach.

The Assembly is adamantly opposed to simply approving more loans for roads. Speaker Vos said he would only consider more borrowing if the state also approves new revenue to help pay off the loans.

Last week Rep Amy Loudenbeck introduced on option for a heavy truck fee to pump more money into transportation funding. Speaker Vos liked the proposal as a short term solution while Senate Steve Nass and a number of statewide organizations including WMC opposed the idea claiming it amounts to a tax increase.

School Aid: Walker’s 2017-19 budget calls for an increase of $649 million for school districts on a per-student basis. The Assembly proposal would provide $90.8 million less for that funding source. The Assembly also adds $92.2 million more in revenue limit authority for school districts that spend less than most others and adds $30 million more for the state’s general funding mechanism for schools than what Walker has proposed.  Senate Republicans including Budget committee co-chairwoman Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, will not support the Assembly’s proposal.

In Wisconsin, school districts receive the largest amount of their state funding through a general fund that distributes money through a formula that gives more to districts with more students with challenges, including those who live in poverty. Districts also receive money from several funding streams including through a certain amount per pupil, currently set at $250 per student.

Walker’s plan increases the amount of money schools get per student by $200 in the 2017-18 school year and by another $204 in the 2018-19 school year. Public school officials and advocates have widely supported the idea.  Lawmakers say such districts have been “locked in” at their low spending levels for decades because state lawmakers in 1993 imposed caps on how much districts can spend — a limit that is based upon enrollment changes, an inflationary increment, and each district’s revenue from the prior years, according to the Department of Public Instruction. The Assembly’s proposal would increase the per-student amount by $150 in the 2017-18 school year and by $200 in the 2018-19 school year.

Taxes:  Walker has said he would veto any state budget plan that increases the tax burden on

SB 030/AB 64 Executive Budget (Walker, Scott) The Governor’s budget for the years 2017-2019. https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2017/proposals/reg/sen/bill/sb30

SB 030 executive action taken by joint committee on Finance
AB 64 executive action taken by joint committee on Finance
Wisconsin residents.

New bills of interest:

AB 393/SB 284:   Creative economy development initiative grants and making an appropriation.

(Petryk, Kitchens, Allen, Ballweg, Berceau, Billings, E.Brooks, Doyle, Genrich, Krug, Kulp, Mason, Meyers, Novak, Ohnstad, Ripp, Rohrkaste, Shankland, Sinicki, Snyder, Swearingen and C. Taylor)

This bill creates a grant program administered by the Arts Board in the Department of Tourism. The bill requires the Arts Board to award grants on a competitive basis to businesses, whether operated for profit or not for profit, local governmental agencies, and business development organizations or associations that work to promote any of the following in Wisconsin:

  1. Individuals or organizations whose products or services have an origin in artistic, cultural, creative, or aesthetic content.
  2. Job creation.
  3. Economic development.
  4. Arts education.
  5. Workforce training and development.

Under the bill, such a grant may not exceed $40,000, and the bill prohibits the Arts Board from awarding a grant unless the proposed grant recipient has secured from nonstate sources an amount equal to at least twice the amount of the proposed grant.

6/19/2017 – Read first time and referred to Committee on Jobs and the Economy

Fiscal Estimate received.

SB323/ AB 415 Authorizing the creation of a Chippewa Valley regional transit authority and making appropriations.
(Senators Vinehout, Carpenter and Miller)

The 2009 Biennial Budget Act (2009 Act 28) authorized the creation of several regional transit authorities: the Dane County RTA, the Chippewa Valley RTA, and the Chequamegon Bay RTA. Under 2009 Act 28, each RTA, once created, is a public body corporate and politic and a separate governmental entity. An RTA’s authority is vested in its board of directors, and its bylaws govern its management, operations, and administration. Among its powers, an RTA may operate a transportation system or provide for its operation by contracting with a public or private organization; impose, by its board of directors adopting a resolution, a sales and use tax in the RTA’s jurisdictional area at a rate not exceeding 0.5 percent of the sales price if certain conditions are satisfied; acquire property by condemnation; and issue tax-exempt revenue bonds. An RTA has a duty to provide, or contract for the provision of, transit service within the RTA’s jurisdictional area. Rates and other charges received by an RTA must be used only for the general expenses and capital expenditures of the RTA; to pay interest, amortization, and retirement charges on the RTA’s revenue bonds; and for specific purposes of the RTA and may not be transferred to any political subdivision. With respect to the Chippewa Valley RTA, Act 28 included partial vetoes of provisions that would have required a referendum before the Chippewa Valley RTA could be created or impose a sales and use tax.

The 2011 Biennial Budget Act (2011 Act 32) eliminated authorization to create an RTA and dissolved the Dane County RTA, the Chippewa Valley RTA, and the Chequamegon Bay RTA to the extent previously created.

This bill restores authorization to create the Chippewa Valley RTA, with essentially the same powers and authority as provided under 2009 Act 28, except
that the bill imposes the referendum requirements that were partially vetoed in Act 28. Also unlike Act 28, under the bill, if the Chippewa Valley RTA imposes a sales and use tax, a member of the RTA may not levy property taxes for transit purposes greater than the property taxes levied for transit purposes in the year before the RTA’s sales and use tax is imposed.

6/23 Read first time and referred to Committee on Government Operations, Technology and Consumer Protection


AB 386/SB 292 – property tax assessments based on comparable sales and market segments – also called the Dark Store Bill

(R.Brooks, Steffen, Hintz, Allen, Bernier, Berceau, Billings, Considine, Doyle, Duchow, Gannon, Hebl, Horlacher, Katsma, Kessler, Knodl, Kolste, Kooyenga, Kremer, Krug, Kuglitsch, Kulp, Macco, Mason, Murphy, Mursau, Novak, Ohnstad, Petersen, Quinn, Rodriguez, Rohrkaste, Sanfelippo, Sargent, Schraa, Spiros, Spreitzer, Stuck, Subeck, Tauchen, Tittl, Weatherston, Wichgers, Zepnick and Zimmerman)

The Dark Store strategy is a tax loophole being used by the Big Box retailers and other national chains to lower the amount they pay in property taxes.  The retailors are arguing that the market value of their thriving store should be based on the sales of similar size “comparable” properties that are vacant and abandoned.  Example:  a new Target would get to pay the same property taxes as the empty dark K-Mart next door.

This bill provides that, for property tax assessment purposes, to determine the value of property using generally accepted appraisal methods, an assessor must consider all of the following as comparable to the property being assessed:

  1. Sales or rentals of properties exhibiting the same or a similar highest and best use with placement in the same real estate market segment.
  2. Sales or rentals of properties that are similar to the property being assessed with regard to age, condition, use, type of construction, location, design, physical features, and economic characteristics. The bill defines “real estate market segment” to mean a pool of potential buyers and sellers that typically buy or sell properties similar to the property being assessed, including potential buyers who are investors or owner-occupants. The bill also provides that a property is not comparable to the property being assessed if the seller has placed restrictions on the highest and best use of the property or if the property is dark property and the property being assessed is not dark property. The bill defines “dark property” as property that is vacant or unoccupied beyond the normal period for property in the same real estate market segment.

6/14/2017 Referred to Committee on Ways & Means


AB 388/SB 320 –  This bill exempts from wetland permitting requirements a discharge of dredged or fill material into an artificial wetland.

(Jacque, Horlacher, Bernier, Brandtjen, E.Brooks, Felzkowski, Jarchow, Kremer, Murphy, Mursau, Quinn, Ripp, Skowronski, Steffen, Tauchen, Thiesfeldt, Tittl and Wichgers)

Current law requires the Department of Natural Resources to issue wetland general permits for discharges of dredged or fill material into certain wetlands. Current law allows DNR to establish different requirements, conditions, and exceptions in general permits to ensure that the discharges will cause only minimal adverse environmental effects. A person who wishes to proceed with a discharge that is covered by a general permit must notify DNR. If DNR does not request additional information or notify the person that an individual permit will be required within 30 days after receipt of the notification, the person may proceed with the discharge.

Current law also authorizes DNR to require a person to apply for and obtain a wetland individual permit if DNR determines that conditions specific to the site require additional restrictions on the discharge in order to provide reasonable assurance that no significant adverse impacts to wetland functional values will occur. Also under current law, before DNR may issue a wetland individual permit, it must require the restoration, enhancement, creation, or preservation of other wetlands to compensate for adverse impacts to a wetland resulting from the discharge, also known as mitigation.

Under current rules promulgated by DNR, certain artificial wetlands are exempt from the wetland permitting requirements unless DNR determines that significant functional values are present. This bill exempts from these permitting requirements a discharge to any artificial wetland. The bill defines an artificial wetland as a wetland inadvertently created by human modifications to the landscape or hydrology and for which there is no prior wetland or stream history, but excludes from the definition a wetland that is subject to federal jurisdiction and a wetland that serves as a fish spawning area or a passage to a fish spawning area.

6/16/17    Referred to Committee on Environment & Forestry


Ongoing updates:

 AB 81/SB 51 TIF (Brooks, Steffen) Relating to technical changes to the tax incremental financing statutes.

This bill makes a number of technical changes to the statutes affecting city, village, and town tax incremental financing districts. The bill does the following:

  1. Limits penalties to $6,000 per report that the Department of Revenue may assess against municipalities that fail to file with DOR certain required reports.
  2. Modifies certain administrative payment and certification request due dates, changing the dues dates from May 15 to April 15.
  3. Repeals a requirement for municipalities to provide DOR with preliminary
    project plan amendment notifications.
  4. Adds mixed-use development to the list of eligible project costs for mixed-use tax incremental districts.
  5. Excludes municipal property from base values for town TIDs.
  6. Repeals an obsolete special provision that applied only to a TID in the city of Hayward; the TID terminated in 2011.


AB 81 Tabled
SB 51 passed unanimously in both houses.
Enacted  6/22

SB 49/AB 123 Broadband extension (Marklein, Howard) Relating to the information technology block grant program, the broadband expansion grant program, waiving certain fees and appraisals, and making appropriations.

The bill makes changes to funding for grants made by the PSC for projects to construct broadband infrastructure in underserved areas. Under current law, $6,000,000 was transferred from the universal service fund (USF) for making the grants, but current law also limits the total grants made in a fiscal year to $1,500,000. The bill eliminates that limit. The bill also provides additional funding for the grants by doing the following: 1) transferring an additional $6,000,000 from the USF; 2) transferring $5,000,000 from moneys received under a federal program for assisting schools and libraries in obtaining telecommunications services and Internet access, which is commonly known as the federal e-rate program; and 3) at the end of each fiscal year, transferring the unencumbered balances from other USF-funded appropriations. Also, beginning in fiscal year 2017-18, the bill allows the PSC to fund its administration of the broadband grant program from contributions made by telecommunications providers to the USF. The bill also makes changes to the priorities for the PSC to make the grants. One of the priorities under current law is for projects that affect areas with no broadband service providers. The bill repeals that priority and requires that the PSC give priority to projects in an “unserved area” designated by the PSC, which the bill defines as an area of this state that is not served by an Internet service provider offering Internet service that 1) is wired service or fixed wireless service; and 2) is provided at actual speeds of at least 20 percent of the upload and download speed for high-speed, switched, broadband telecommunications capability as designated by the Federal Communications Commission in its annual inquiries regarding advanced telecommunications capability. Another priority under current law is for projects that promote “economic development,” which is not defined. This bill defines “economic development” as development designed to promote job growth or retention, expand the property tax base, or improve the overall economic vitality of a town, village, city, county, or region. Also, the bill creates a new priority for projects that will not result in delaying the provision of broadband service to neighboring areas. In addition, the bill requires the PSC to consider the following in evaluating grant applications for proposed projects: 1) the degree to which the projects would duplicate existing broadband infrastructure; 2) impacts on the ability of individuals to access health care services from home and the cost of those services; and 3) impacts on the ability of students to access educational opportunities from home.


5/6 SB 49 passed, 33-0 and messaged to Assembly
5/8 Fiscal Estimate received.

SB 173/AB 179 Brownfield Reform (Jacque, Andre) Remediation of contaminated land; air pollution control requirements for certain manufacturing facilities constructed on formerly contaminated land; reassigning tax deeds on tax delinquent brownfield properties; creating a new method for the creation of environmental remediation tax incremental financing districts; loans and repayment assistance by a political subdivision for certain brownfield revitalization projects and collection of the debt by special charge; state trust fund loans for brownfield projects; conversion of business improvement districts; and annexations to business improvement districts and neighborhood districts.


AB 179 public hearing held on 5/16/17
SB 173 Fiscal estimate received

SB 98/AB 138 Safe-ride Grant Program (Testin, Patrick) An act to amend part of the safe-ride grant program.

Current law allows for the grant program administered by DOT to cover up to 80 percent of the costs of transporting people too intoxicated to legally drive. This bill adds to the grant program in that the DOT may also give grants to cover the cost of advertising the safe-ride program. https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2017/proposals/reg/asm/bill/ab138

SB 98 fiscal estimate received
AB 138 referred to committee on Transportation and Veterans Affairs
Public hearing held on 6/7/17

SB 168/AB 226 Contaminated Well Remediation Assistance (Cowles, Rob) Local assistance for remediating contaminated wells and failing wastewater treatment systems and award limits for contaminated well grants. This bill raises the amount a grant from the Department of Natural Resources can be. 75 percent of $16,000 is the new grant award limit. This means grants can be as large as $12,000. Current law allows grants to be up to $9,000. https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2017/proposals/sb168

SB 168 fiscal estimate received.
SB 168 passed Committee on Natural Resources and Energy 5-0
SB 168 available for scheduling

SB 76/AB 105 High Capacity Wells (Fitzgerald, Scott L.) Current law says a person must receive approval from the Department of Natural Resources before constructing or operating a high capacity well. This bill allows no additional approval for the owner to 1) repair or maintain the well, 2) construct a replacement well if the replacement’s purpose is to prevent contamination, 3) reconstruct the well to the same depth and specifications of the existing well, or 4) transfer the approval at the same time as the owner transfers the land on which the well is located. The owner must notify the DNR of any of these actions but does not need approval. https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2017/proposals/reg/sen/bill/sb7           

SB 76 report correctly enrolled
AB 105 Assembly 62-35
Enacted on 6/1

SB 85/AB 142 Highway Projects This bill makes the changes suggested in the Legislative Audit Bureau’s January 2017 report regarding the state highway projects: use of the construction manager-general contractor process for highway project contracting, major highway project reports, and cost-benefit analyses of certain services related to transportation.https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2017/proposals/reg/sen/bill/sb85

5/10/17   Passed Senate as amended and messaged to Assembly and referred to committee on Rules


SB 207/AB 234 Creating an Interagency Council on Homelessness (Darling, Alberta) This bill creates the Interagency Council on Homelessness. The bill includes the specifics on who the board will consist of. It also states the duties of the council which are 1) appointing a director to coordinate activities, 2) establishing a statewide policy on ending and preventing homelessness, 3) choosing individuals from state agencies to implement policy of the council, and 4) implementing policy in cooperation with state agencies.


AB 234 passed 98-0.
SB 207 fiscal estimate received
Public hearing held on 5/24/17

 SB 204/AB 236 (Pronschinske, Treig E.) This bill authorizes the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority to develop procedures to implement a two-year pilot
program that gives priority to chronically homeless individuals and families on the waiting list WHEDA or a public housing agency that contracts with WHEDA. The bill also authorizes WHEDA to provide case management services for chronically homeless individuals and families who receive a voucher after being prioritized on the waiting list. https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2017/proposals/sb204

AB 236 passed 73-25.
SB 204 fiscal estimate received
Public hearing held on 5/24/17

SB 217/AB 295 DOT Funding (Stroebel, Duey) This bill requires some of the money allocated to the Department of Transportation for state highway rehabilitation to be put into an account dedicated to local transportation assistance programs. This bill also requires for the same amount of federal money appropriated for local transportation assistance programs to be put into an account for state highway rehabilitation. Lastly, it requires the Legislative Fiscal Bureau to adjust the appropriation schedule in chapter 20 of the statutes to display the amounts transferred into accounts immediately after the transfer is made. https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2017/proposals/reg/sen/bill/sb217

SB 217 fiscal estimate received
AB 295 fiscal estimate received


SB 180/AB 281 Water Supply Service Area (Kapenga, Chris) Current law requires a person running a public water supply system to get the plan approved by the Department of Natural Resources. This plan should consist of the proposed area for the supply system, an assessment of the environmental and economic impacts for having the system, and other information. Current law also says that when a public water supply system in a county that is only partly within the Great Lakes Basin proposes to take water from the Great Lakes Basin, they must seek approval by the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Council.

This bill provides if the council approves the requested diversion area, the area serves as the water supply service area in the water supply plan that the public water supply system submits to the DNR. This bill does not require diversion areas designated by the council to be consistent with an approved area wide water quality management plan for planning the area. https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2017/proposals/reg/sen/bill/sb180

 SB 180 public hearing held on 5/23/17
AB 281 public hearing held on 5/23/17
Passed by Committee on Government Operations, Technology and Consumer Protection 4-1
Available for scheduling (6/8/17)