Assembly Approves Budget: On to the Senate

By John Forester | June 26, 2019

From WisPolitics.com…

The state Assembly late Tuesday approved the GOP’s version of the state budget 60-39, sending the document to the Senate.

Three Republicans joined all Assembly Dems in opposing the bill.

The GOP no votes were: Janel Brandtjen, of Menomonee Falls; Rick Gundrum, of Slinger; and Tim Ramthun, of Campbellsport.

See more from WisPolitics on the budget debate here.

See Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Coverage here.

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Supreme Court Finds DPI Subject to GOP Laws on Administrative Rules

By John Forester | June 25, 2019

The State Supreme Court issued its ruling today in Koschkee v. Taylor.  It requires DPI to go through the same processes for the enactment of administrative rules (including governor approval) as other state agencies, despite the fact that the State Superintendent of Public Instruction is a constitutional official, and despite at least two prior Supreme Court decisions that held such a requirement is unconstitutional.  SAA and WASB together submitted an amicus brief (written by Boardman Clark) in support of the position that the State Superintendent should not be subject to such legislative processes.  See the coverage from WisPolitics below.

From WisPolitics.com … 

Three years after ruling the Department of Public Instruction doesn’t have to submit proposed administrative rules to the guv for review, the state Supreme Court reversed course today and found the agency is subject to the requirement just like any other agency.

In a 4-2 decision, the court overturned that 2016 ruling. In doing so, the conservative majority found the Wisconsin Constitution gives the state superintendent the power to supervise public instruction.

But the Legislature grants the superintendent and DPI the power to promulgate rules. Therefore, the court ruled, lawmakers can set limits on that power.

“That the SPI also has the executive constitutional function to supervise public instruction does not transform the SPI’s legislatively delegated rulemaking power into a constitutional supervisory function,” Chief Justice Pat Roggensack wrote in the majority opinion that was joined by her fellow three conservatives.

In 2011, Republicans approved a change in the rule-making process that required agencies to first submit a scope statement on proposed rules to the guv for approval. Those statements describe the rule and its objectives, among other things. The law also required final drafts of rules to be again submitted to the guv for review before they could be sent to the full Legislature.

In 2016, the court ruled DPI wasn’t subject to that law because it inappropriately gave the guv supervision of public instruction, a power granted the state superintendent in the constitution.

The following year, Republicans pushed through the REINS Act, which added new requirements such as scope statements being submitted to the Department of Administration for review with the agency making a nonbinding recommendation to the guv.

The conservative Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty went back to the court after the 2017 law took effect seeking an order to force DPI to comply with the law. The agency countered it wasn’t subject to the law due to the 2016 decision.

But that 2016 ruling included a lead opinion from one justice, a two-justice concurrence and a second concurrence from a fourth justice. Today’s majority noted they only agreed on the outcome.

Writing for the minority, Justice Ann Walsh Bradley slammed the court’s majority for doing an “about-face” on its 2016 decision.

“Although nothing in our Constitution has changed since Coyne was decided, what has changed is the membership of the court,” she wrote.

In order to reach its conclusion, Bradley added, the majority “throws … out the window” the doctrine of stare decisis, in which the court follows previous decisions when the same points arise in litigation.

Fellow liberal Justice Rebecca Dallet joined Bradley in her dissent.

Conservatives Rebecca Bradley and Daniel Kelly filed concurring opinions, while liberal Shirley Abrahamson withdrew from participation in the case.

Read the decision

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LFB Releases Comparative Summary of Budget Recommendations

By John Forester | June 24, 2019

In case you missed it, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau released its Comparative Summary of Budget Recommendations Last week.  See the Public Instruction recommendations here.

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LFB: Just 7 Policy Provisions in JFC Budget

By John Forester | June 24, 2019

From WisPolitics.com … 

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau identified just seven policy provisions in the budget that emerged from the Joint Finance Committee.

That’s down from 69 items in the 2017-19 budget approved by the JFC.

Republican lawmakers looked to limit policy added to the proposed budget to avoid giving Gov. Tony Evers room to use his veto pen.

Of the seven included in the proposed budget, four are related to restricting local regulations for quarries, which were added as part of a JFC transportation package.

Another of the identified non-fiscal policy items was also included in the JFC transportation package. It included new requirements for designing highway projects.

The other two items identified in a memo released Friday, include: requiring a report on security around the state Capitol grounds; and deleting a three-year contract limit for the sale of wholesale electricity by a merchant plant to a utility. The provision would apply if the merchant plant has a financial interest in the utility, according to LFB.

Read the memo

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LFB: Property Tax Impacts the Same on JFC, Evers Budgets

By John Forester | June 19, 2019

From WisPolitics.com …

Property taxes on a median-valued home would go up the same amount under the GOP’s budget plan as they would under Gov. Tony Evers’ original proposal, according to a Legislative Fiscal Bureau analysis.

That’s despite JFC Republicans last week pumping $58.6 million into the lottery to free up additional money for a tax credit to blunt increases.

JFC Co-chair Rep. John Nygren slammed property tax increases in Evers’ budget in making his closing arguments before the JFC approved its version of the budget last week. He said Evers’ budget would increase taxes 3.6 percent on a median-valued home and “would be the largest increase in property taxes in a decade.”

In a news conference after last week’s vote, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said Evers wanted property taxes to increase and that “our budget holds the line on property taxes and keeps them lower than they would have been under Gov. Evers’ proposed plan.”

Quizzed on LFB memo yesterday, the Rochester Republican pivoted to his party’s plan for a middle-class tax cut. Vos highlighted the GOP’s budgetary priority to not raise taxes, which he said the Evers middle-class tax cut plan did.

“I think we were able to achieve our results while spending less, lowering taxes not raising them and doing it in a way that’s sustainable for the long run,” he said.

The median-valued home, worth $166,967 at the end of last year, saw a property tax bill of $2,871.

Under Evers’ budget, that would go up $56 to $2,927 in the first year of Evers’ budget and $48 to $2,975 in the second. Those increases amount to 2 percent and 1.6 percent, respectively.

Under the Republican-controlled JFC’s budget, the LFB estimated the increases would be the same.

Under current law, the property tax bill for that same home would go up $72 in the first year and $45 in the second.

See the LFB memo here.

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Evers Waiting for Final Budget Before Making Veto Decision

By John Forester | June 18, 2019

From WisPolitics.com … 

Gov. Tony Evers yesterday said he will not make a decision on how to use his partial or full veto authority on the state budget until lawmakers present him with a finalized version.

The Joint Finance Committee last week wrapped up its deliberations on the guv’s original proposal. The panel approved a number of GOP-backed measures and largely rejected Evers’ proposals on health care, education and transportation.

The JFC version of the budget now heads to the state Assembly and Senate, where it is expected to be taken up on the floor in the last week of June.

But when quizzed by reporters, Evers refused to tip his hand as to what he plans to do with GOP-backed document.

“At the end of the day, we won’t be making any decisions until we see what comes out of both houses,” he said.

The guv also said he has yet to meet with Republican legislative leaders to negotiate changes to the budget, but added that he plans to reach out to them before the bodies meet to take up the JFC’s proposal.

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JFC Passes State Budget

By John Forester | June 14, 2019

The GOP-led Joint Finance Committee passed its state budget bill yesterday.  Check out the recap from Wisconsin Public Radio.

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Evers Weighing Options on Budget

By John Forester | June 13, 2019

Check out this news story from the Racine Journal Times.

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GOP May Not Return Until October If Evers Vetoes Entire Budget

By John Forester | June 12, 2019

According to Wisconsin State Journal coverage, Speaker Robin Vos has confirmed what many budget-watchers have suspected all along: If Governor Evers vetoes the entire state budget bill that reaches his desk, the Republican legislature may be in no hurry to return to Madison to resolve the budget stalemate.  Check out the news story from Riley Vetterkind of the Wisconsin State Journal.

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BoardmanClark: Tax Consequences of Tuition Reimbursement Agreements

By John Forester | June 3, 2019

From The Legal Side…

BoardmanClark recently published this School Law FYI regarding Tax Consequences of Tuition Reimbursement Agreements.  The SAA regularly receives these updates and we believe this is valuable information for SAA members.  We are distributing this update to SAA members with the permission of BoardmanClark.

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