News: Public Health

Wisconsin Budget Update

Monday, July 6, 2015  
Posted by: Jamie Michael
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Last week, the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee (JFC) finished reshaping Gov. Scott Walker's budget bill, passing their version of the state's two-year spending plan on a partisan 12-4 vote. The Committee's final vote on the $68 billion budget ended a month-long stalemate between Assembly and Senate Republicans who had a difficult time agreeing on several major fiscal items, including transportation funding, the Milwaukee Bucks arena project, and prevailing wage.

Ultimately, the Finance Committee reached a compromise on transportation funding that equitably reduces overall bonding for road projects across the state and removed the Bucks area proposal from the budget which will now be considered as a stand-alone bill.

In the final motion, the committee approved the elimination of certain boards and councils.  The committee specified that the Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) must include a proposal to eliminate inactive boards, councils, or commissions with the submission of its biennial agency budget request.

As far as the budget as a whole, the following public health-related provisions were included in the JFC-approved budget:

  • JFC deleted Gov. Walker's state budget recommendation to transfer the WI State Lab of Hygiene from the UW to the Dept. of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). As a result, the WSLH will remain attached to the UW.
  • JFC deleted Gov. Walker's state budget recommendation to transfer over $6 million in WSLH's General Purpose Revenue (GPR) funding to the WI Dept. of Health Services (DHS) and the Dept. of Natural Resources. As a result, the WSHL will continue to receive and maintain control over the GPR funding.
  • JFC approved Gov. Walker's proposal to transfer all DHS food safety activities and responsibilities to DATCP, which was not opposed by WPHA-WALHDAB. However, a "surprise" motion was approved by the Committee to prohibit DATCP and local health departments granted state agent status from modifying food safety inspection fees during the 2015-17 biennium. WALHDAB-WPHA will be sending a veto request letter to the governor asking him to delete the provision from the budget.
  • JFC approved Gov. Walker's budget proposal to transfer tattooing, body piercing and tanning regulation from DHS to the Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS). The transfer will become effective on January 1, 2016. WALHDAB and WPHA (through leadership members and their lobbyist) are working with DSPS to ensure a smooth transition and to make certain the public health aspect of regulation remains a focus.
  • JFC did not reduce any GPR funding for public health related programs under DHS (e.g., tobacco control, well woman, etc.).
  • JFC voted unanimously to provide a one-time $100,000 funding increase for the Wisconsin Well Woman Program.
  • JFC provided a funding increase of $300,000 over the biennium for state HIV/AIDS programs.

The budget bill will now be considered by the full Legislature, and lawmakers in both houses are unlikely to make many changes -- if any -- to the budget approved by JFC. The Assembly is expected to vote on the bill this week, followed by the Senate. The bill will then be sent to the governor for his veto review and final approval.

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