SAA Opposes AB 670/SB 612

By John Forester | January 29, 2020

SAA Executive Director John Forester testified today in opposition to Assembly Bill 670  and Senate Bill 612 , relating to increasing the minimum WRS retirement age and return-to-work provisions for WRS annuitants.  Testimony was delivered during public hearings on the bills before the Assembly Committee on State Affairs and the Senate Committee on Government Operations, Technology and Consumer Protection.

John Forester Testimony

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WRS Retirement Age/Return-to-Work Bills to Receive Public Hearings

By John Forester | January 28, 2020

Companion bills Assembly Bill 670 and Senate Bill 612, relating to increasing the minimum WRS retirement age and return-to-work provisions for WRS annuitants, will receive public hearings concurrently in both the Senate Committee on Government Operations, Technology and Consumer Protection and the Assembly Committee on State Affairs on Wednesday, January 29th.  The hearing notices are linked below.  The Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB) supports this legislation.  SAA opposes it.  You might recall a previous blog post in which the SAA detailed the concerns about the bill raised by the SAA Legislative Committee.

Senate Committee on Government Operations, Technology and Consumer Protection hearing notice.

Assembly Committee on State Affairs hearing notice.

AB-670 Increasing Retirement Age (Felzkowski, Mary) Increasing the minimum retirement age under the Wisconsin Retirement System; decreasing the minimum break in service for annuitants in the Wisconsin Retirement System who are rehired by a participating employer, and allowing rehired annuitants to elect to not participate in the Wisconsin Retirement System.

SB-612 Increasing Retirement Age (Stroebel, Duey) Increasing the minimum retirement age under the Wisconsin Retirement System; decreasing the minimum break in service for annuitants in the Wisconsin Retirement System who are rehired by a participating employer, and allowing rehired annuitants to elect to not participate in the Wisconsin Retirement System.

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Proposals Abound for Anticipated State Revenue Increase

By John Forester | January 24, 2020

From WisPolitics.com …

The latest revenue estimates give the guv and lawmakers an additional $451.9 million — and maybe more — to play with ahead of the fall election with competing proposals to spend the money or create new tax cuts.

The estimates come as Gov. Tony Evers formally released an $8.5 million package to help farmers and rural economies, while Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, again called for a new property tax cut.

Still, Republicans were quick to push back on any rush to spend the money.

“With this new revenue, Republicans will continue to look for ways to protect taxpayers instead of growing government,” vowed Joint Finance Co-chairs Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, and John Nygren, R-Marinette.

The guv’s office didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau today projected the state will take in an additional $818.2 million through mid-2021, largely thanks to strong corporate tax collections.

That additional revenue will mean a deposit of $409.1 million in the state’s rainy day fund, which is now expected to have a balance of more than $1 billion by mid-2021.

Adding the leftover tax collections with a slight bump in departmental revenues and a small decrease in net appropriations means an additional $451.9 million in the general fund, according to LFB.

And the state’s projected bottom line could grow even more depending on what happens with the Foxconn project in southeastern Wisconsin. The memo notes the state budgeted $212 million in tax credits for the Taiwanese manufacturer in 2020-21. But LFB Director Bob Lang wrote the agency expects the payment to be in the range of $50 million to $75 million based on progress at the facility to date.

The boost in tax revenue had been expected as monthly collection reports from the Evers administration showed corporate numbers running well ahead of projections. Late last year, Fitzgerald, who’s running for the 5th CD, said he wanted to see additional revenue go to a property tax cut.

Fitzgerald didn’t offer any specifics of what he will propose now that the new projections are in, saying he expects to work on the scope of the proposal in the coming weeks so the Senate can address it before adjourning in March.

“With another surplus this year, we should return some of that money to the working people in our state,” Fitzgerald said.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said he’ll work with his colleagues to pay down debt or reduce taxes and “return surplus dollars to the people who earn them.”

Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, urged using the money to address “areas of urgent need,” saying Republicans have underfunded the UW System during their control of the Capitol and then rejected Evers’ proposal to boost university aid. He also suggested using the money for school-based mental health care.

“With this news comes opportunity,” he said.

Three-fourths of the additional $818.2 million in tax collections comes from corporations, according to the LFB memo.

In May, the agency projected corporate tax collections to drop 14 percent in the first year of the budget before rebounding with growth of 3.4 percent in 2020-21. Now, the agency is projecting growth of 11.7 percent in 2019-20 and then an additional 0.7 percent in 2020-21.

That projection comes on the heels of corporate taxes going up 49.7 percent in 2018-19. LFB called the growth “unprecedented.”

LFB also noted an additional factor that could impact the state’s bottom line for the 2019-21 budget. The Department of Health Services in its last quarterly report projected Medical Assistance general purpose revenue costs to be $39.8 million higher than what was budgeted in
July. LFB called the estimate preliminary and noted steps can be taken to address the anticipated shortfall, which is 0.6 percent of budgeted costs for the fund over the biennium.

See the memo here.

See Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Coverage here.

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DPI Endorses “Explicit Phonics Instruction”

By John Forester | January 23, 2020

In her remarks at the State Education Convention on Wednesday, State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor alluded to the DPI’s endorsement of “explicit phonics instruction” as a critical component of reading instruction.

Check out the coverage from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel here.

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Stanford Taylor Won’t Seek Full Term as DPI Superintendent in ’21

By John Forester | January 13, 2020

From WisPolitics.com …

Carolyn Stanford Taylor, who Gov. Tony Evers appointed to replace him as state superintendent, announced today she will not seek a full term in 2021.

“I promised Governor Evers I would commit to completing the 2 1/2 years left in his term as state superintendent and to continue the work we had started together at the DPI, and I will maintain that commitment while I serve this office,” she said in an announcement today.

See the news release here.

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SAA Testifies on Energy Efficiency, Seclusion/Restraint Bills

By John Forester | December 20, 2019

SAA Executive Director John Forester testified yesterday in support of Assembly Bill 553, relating to school district revenue limit adjustment for energy efficiency projects, and for information only on Assembly Bill 585, relating to the seclusion and physical restraint of pupils.  Superintendents Kris Gilmore (D.C.Everest) and Joe Leschisin (Cameron) also delivered fabulous testimony in support of AB 553.  The testimony was delivered at a public hearing before the Assembly Committee on Education.

Forester Testimony on AB 553

Gilmore Testimony on AB 553

Leschisin Testimony on AB 553

Forester Testimony on AB 585

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Legislation Would Enhance Penalties for Harassment of a Sports Official

By John Forester | December 11, 2019

A bipartisan bill (LRB-4781) that will enhance the penalties for those who harass sports officials is currently circulating for co-sponsorship inside the State Capitol.  The authors indicate they are bringing this bill forward because high school sports officials are quitting in large numbers and youth sports programs are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit and retain officials due to unruly and verbally abusive fans.  The bill is being introduced at the request of the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletics Association (WIAA) the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO) and the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

Below are some staggering statistics courtesy of NASO:

-24 States have Assault Legislation, Civil Statues and/or Supportive Resolutions protecting and supporting sports officials. Wisconsin is not among them.

-The average age of sports officials across the country is 53 years old.

-Nearly 48% of male officials have felt unsafe or feared for their safety in connection to officiating.

-Nearly 45% of female officials have felt unsafe or feared for their safety in connection to officiating.

-57% of sports officials believe that sportsmanship is getting worse. Youth, adult recreation and high school levels are identified as the worst sportsmanship levels.

-Parents (40%), coaches (30%) and fans (18%) cause the most sportsmanship problems.

-43% of officials and officiating leaders cite that most new officials quit within the first 1-3 years.

-13% of officials have been assaulted by either a fan, coach or player.

-The average starting age for a sports official is now 40-45 years old. Thirty years ago, the average starting age for a sports official was 20-25 years old.

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State of the State Address, January 22nd

By John Forester | December 11, 2019

From The Wheeler Report . . .

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has sent a letter to Governor Evers saying he is offering an invitation to deliver the State of the State address to a joint session of the Wisconsin Legislature on Wednesday, January 22, 2020 in the Assembly Chambers.

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Pope and Others Propose Voucher Accountability Package

By John Forester | December 11, 2019

From The Wheeler Report . . .

Reps. Sondy Pope and Dave Considine and Sens. Jon Erpenbach and Janet Bewley are circulating four bills as part of their “Voucher School Accountability to Protect Property Taxpayers” package.

LRB-4156 Memo Special Needs Scholarships (Pope, Sondy) Phasing out the Special Needs Scholarship Program and limiting enrollment in parental choice programs.

LRB-4164 Memo Teacher Licensure (Pope, Sondy) Teacher licensure in parental choice programs and in the Special Needs Scholarship Program and granting rule-making authority.

LRB-3674 Memo School Aid (Bewley, Janet) State aid to the resident school district of a pupil attending a private school under the Racine or statewide parental choice program.

LRB-5044 Memo Per Pupil Payments (Erpenbach, Jon) Per pupil payments to private schools participating in parental choice programs.

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SAA Legislative Committee Expresses Concerns About Return to Work Bill

By John Forester | December 5, 2019

At the SAA Legislative Committee meeting held on November 25th, Committee members discussed the merits of WRS annuitant return to work legislation for more than an hour.  The legislation, authored by Representative Mary Felzkowski (R-Irma) and Senator Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville), was circulating for co-sponsorship inside the State Capitol at the time of the Committee meeting.  The proposal has the support of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB).  If adopted, the legislation would:

During the lengthy and spirited Committee discussion, members expressed strong support for rolling back the provisions of the current return to work law to allow retired teachers, administrators and staff to return to WRS-covered employment without restrictions in order to fill critical positions in school districts throughout Wisconsin.

However, Committee members also expressed the following concerns or reservations about the proposed legislation:

At the conclusion of the Committee discussion, members were asked, “If the objective is to improve our ability to recruit and retain quality teachers, administrators and staff to fill critical positions, on balance does this proposal help us do that or not?”  The clear consensus of the Committee was that the proposal does not help us with that objective.

See the bill draft here.

If you should have any comments or questions on this important policy issue, please contact me at the SAA.  Thanks for listening and, as always, thanks for everything you do on behalf of the children you serve.

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