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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SAA Statement on JFC Budget Action

By John Forester | May 24, 2019

The SAA has issued the following news release on yesterday’s Joint Finance Committee (JFC) action on the K-12 portion of the state budget.

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JFC Approves GOP Education Plan, Dems Slam As Inadequate

By John Forester | May 23, 2019

From WisPolitics.com…

Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee approved putting an additional $500 million into K-12 education over the next two years as Dems slammed the plan as embarrassingly inadequate, particularly on special education.

The GOP plan, approved along party lines, included an additional $97 million for special education.

But it was well short of the $1.4 billion increase that Gov. Tony Evers proposed. That plan included a $606 million bump for special ed.

The GOP proposal would take the state to reimbursing 26 percent of special education costs in the first year of the budget and 30 percent in the second.

The state is now at 25 percent, among the lowest rates in the country. Under the guv’s budget, that rate would be 30 percent in the first year of the budget and then jump to 60 percent in the second.

Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, slammed Republicans, saying they had no credibility with the public on education after the past eight years. By comparison, she said, the “people rose up” and elected Evers last fall after he spent a career as an educator.

She challenged Republicans to run next fall on their education proposal considering the demands from parents for a bigger funding boost.

“When you keep poking our public school kids with a stick, you will hear the parents roar,” Taylor said. “And we will keep roaring, and you will hear it in the next election.”

GOP Sen. Luther Olsen, chair of the Education Committee, countered the plan Joint Finance approved 11-4 tracks to what Evers wanted for special education when he was state superintendent, not guv. Then, Evers proposed reimbursing 30 percent of special education costs in the second year of the 2017-19 budget.

“Today, we are getting to his number,” said Olsen, R-Ripon. “You talk about a cut from a number. But we’re increasing from reality.”

Olsen also said the proposed increase would set a benchmark going forward.

Federal law requires states to maintain their spending commitment to special education in order to receive federal funds. If the GOP plan is approved, it would require the state to continue funding at least 30 percent of special education costs going forward.

Ahead of the meeting, JFC Co-chair John Nygren, R-Marinette, dismissed Evers’ education budget as a political document, particularly in light of the 60 percent reimbursement rate it would’ve hit in the second year. He argued that wasn’t a sustainable rate going forward.

He also said a “high level” cabinet secretary admitted to him the proposed funding level wasn’t realistic, but declined to say who it was. Nygren also said school administrators who contacted him were more comfortable with the GOP proposal than what Evers put on the table.

“Education leaders had questions if it was realistic,” Nygren said.

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GOP K-12 Motion Released

By John Forester | May 23, 2019

GOP members of the Joint Finance Committee have released their K-12 Omnibus Motion that will be voted on later today.

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GOP Lawmakers Reach Deal on K-12 Education

By John Forester | May 23, 2019

From WisPolitics.com …

GOP lawmakers have reached a deal to pump an additional $500 million into K-12 education, including a $97 million increase for special education.

Both figures are well short of the $1.4 billion increase that Gov. Tony Evers proposed. That plan included a $606 million bump for special ed.

Still, Sen. Luther Olsen, the Education chair and a member of the Finance Committee, urged Evers to back the deal, warning it might be the best he gets.

“If he vetoes it, who knows when we’re going to get to a conclusion, and they need to get their books in order for this next year,” Olsen said of schools. “They want certainty.”

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Assembly Republicans Propose Additional $500 Million to K-12 Education

By John Forester | May 22, 2019

From WisPolitics.com …

Assembly Republicans today pledged to pump an additional $500 million into K-12 education, including the first increase in special education aid in more than a decade.

The proposal still falls well short of the $1.4 billion that Gov. Tony Evers proposed for K-12. But Assembly Republicans said it was an approach the state could afford and builds upon their “historic” investment in education in the current biennium.

Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and JFC Co-chair John Nygren, R-Marinette, also said final details were still being worked out with Senate Republicans ahead of tomorrow’s Joint Finance vote on K-12 education. Both expressed optimism they were close on the details.

The Assembly GOP plan includes:

*raising revenue limits by $200 per student in the first year of the budget and an additional $204 in the second year. Some of that increase would be paid for by property tax increases.

*$50 million more in funding for special education, a 13 percent increase.

*an additional $20 million for student mental health.

*an additional $4.6 million for high-cost transportation.

*raising the revenue caps for low-spending districts to $10,000 over the next two years. They’re now at $9,400.

Evers’ budget was projected to result in an increase in property tax bills of $56 in the first year of the budget and $48 in the second year. That amounts to an increase of 2 percent and 1.6 percent.

Vos said the Assembly GOP plan would result in increases of less than 1 percent.

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Re-Issuing State Budget Alert – Please Respond ASAP!

By John Forester | May 21, 2019

Many thanks to those that have contacted the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) members and their legislators in response to the SAA’s State Budget Alert issued last Thursday.

Several SAA members have shared with me that their GOP legislators are indicating they are feeling no pressure to increase special education funding substantially.

For that reason, we are re-issuing (see below) our State Budget Alert and urging all SAA members that have yet to respond to the alert to contact JFC members and their legislators ASAP in support of the SAA priority budget positions.  It is vitally important that lawmakers hear the school administrator voice at this critical point in the state budget process.

Remember, the JFC will act on K-12 education issues this Thursday morning.  This is our last opportunity to influence JFC members.  Let’s make it count.

 

PRIORITY STATE BUDGET ALERT

The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) plans to vote on the K-12 education portion of the State Budget on Thursday, May 23rd.

From the very beginning of the 2019-21 State Budget process, we have known that Governor Evers’ budget priorities, including the proposed $1.4 billion increase for K-12 education, would require revenue generated by the proposed Medicaid expansion, the proposed cap on the manufacturing and agriculture tax credit and the proposed limitation on the exclusion for nonfarm capital gains.

However, the first motion adopted by the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) on May 9th removed those three items (and 128 others) from budget consideration leaving an enormous divide between Governor Evers and the GOP on K-12 funding and other budget needs.  Capitol sources have indicated that GOP members of the JFC tentatively plan to support increasing K-12 funding by about $450-$500 million.

SAA members have done an outstanding job up to now in our state budget advocacy efforts with fabulous testimony at the JFC hearings as well as the extensive communications individual members have had with their legislators.

Yes, we have done a great job up till now.  But, if we don’t take this final opportunity to influence JFC members, we risk further erosion of K-12 funding increases.

So, I implore you to act once again on behalf of the children you serve.  Today, I urge every single SAA member to contact the 16 members of the Joint Finance Committee, as well as your own legislators, in support of our top budget priorities.

For your convenience in contacting your own legislators, I have provided links to the Senate Directory, the Assembly Directory and Who Are My Legislators.  Simply encourage these legislators to:

  1. Support at least a $200 per pupil general revenue increase in each year of the biennium. Explain the importance of these increases in both fiscal and human terms.  In particular, emphasize the impact on educational opportunities for the kids you serve.
  1. Support a substantial increase in funding for special education. It is important to explain your district’s fund 10 to fund 27 transfer.  As you know, some legislators have been loudly balking at increasing special education funding and even spreading misinformation about how special education services are funded.  Please use the SAA Special Education Talking Points in your communication.
  1. Support a substantial increase in funding for school-age mental health.
  1. Support for school funding that is “spendable”. In recent state budgets, policymakers have commonly increased school levy credits or increased general aid with no corresponding revenue limit increase.  I call this “school funding in name only”.  It simply flows to taxpayers as property tax relief and school districts cannot spend one dime of it on the educational needs of children.

I’m so proud of your budget advocacy this session.  But, we need to put an exclamation point on it.  I know you are busy, but I need you to make these contacts by day’s end on Wednesday, May 22nd.  Let’s carry the fight just a little bit longer.

Let’s get it done!  Thanks.

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GOP Considers Splitting Budget Into Two Bills

By John Forester | May 21, 2019

From WisPolitics.com …

GOP legislative leaders are considering splitting the budget into two bills — one that would outline spending and the other containing policy — in an attempt to get around the guv’s partial veto authority.

Gov. Tony Evers has the most powerful partial veto authority in the country, but can only use it on legislation that includes appropriations. Splitting the budget into two bills would mean Evers couldn’t rework policy Republicans want to include as part of the plan and would be forced to either sign the full bill or veto it.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, told WisPolitics.com he likes the idea of splitting the budget into two bills, but was still studying any possible downsides and said no final decision has been made about whether to send one bill or two to Evers.

He said the possible approach was born out of frustration among GOP lawmakers that Evers doesn’t want to “negotiate or talk about any of the topics in his budget.”

“If we can’t negotiate, this is at least something we should consider,” Vos said.

An Evers spokeswoman said it was the first the guv’s office has heard of Republicans considering the option and didn’t have an immediate comment. But Dem Sen. Jon Erpenbach, a member of the Finance Committee, said Republicans seemed to be “begging” Evers to veto the budget.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, and Vos spoke with WisPolitics.com about the possible two-bill approach during the GOP state convention in Oshkosh this weekend. Fitzgerald said he has discussed the option with his caucus, but referred other questions to Vos.

It would likely be a first since the state moved to an executive budget in 1931. Prior to that, individual bills were introduced for each agency. In the 88 years since, every budget has been signed into law as one act, according to a history from the Legislative Reference Bureau.

Still, Gov. Tommy Thompson in 1987 proposed separate budget bills for revenue, transportation, natural resources and the capital budget and in 1989 had separate proposals for natural resources and transportation. In both cases, the Joint Finance Committee combined them into one bill, according to LRB. In 1995, Thompson submitted a separate transportation bill, and that was signed into law outside the executive budget.

Vos pointed out Republicans split Act 10 into two bills in 2011 with Senate Dems leaving the state and denying the chamber the quorum needed to take up fiscal legislation. With Dems still largely out of the state, Republicans pushed through the Senate the policy provisions.

Wisconsin guvs have the ability to veto language and dollar amounts in bills that include an appropriation. But Evers can’t create new words by striking an individual letter and can’t combine parts of two or more sentences to create a new once.

Insiders have been watching to see how Evers might use his partial veto authority on the budget Republicans send to him. The going belief has been that if Evers wasn’t able to reshape the document to his liking with his partial veto authority, he would consider nixing the entire document. A full veto would be a first since the switch to executive budgets in 1931.

Vos said he has spoken with the Fiscal and Reference bureaus on how the two-bill approach might work. He said a decision on whether to do the budget in one bill or two wouldn’t need to be made until just before the floor votes in both houses.

Erpenbach, D-Middleton, called the scenario frustrating and called on GOP leaders to sit down with Evers.

“It’s like they’re doing everything they can to not sit down with him, not work with him, not take any of his suggestions with any seriousness at all,” he said.

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