Capitol Buzz
February 16, 2021
Summary of State Budget Initiatives Impacting Municipalities

Governor Evers introduced his proposed 2021-2023 state budget earlier this evening. Highlights for municipalities include the following:

State Aid Programs; Local Revenue Option:
  • Shared Revenue. The Governor proposes the first increase for shared revenue in over a dozen years. Provide successive 2 percent increases in the funding for the County and Municipal Aid Program to take effect in 2021 and then again in 2022. Each municipality's payment will be increased by 2 percent over its 2020 levels for 2021 payments and then will be increased by 2 percent again in 2022 over 2021's payments. These increases will provide $15.06 million for county and municipal governments in 2021 and $30.4 million in 2022 and in future years.
  • Payment for Municipal Services Program. Increase funding for the program to restore the cuts imposed during the 2011-13 biennium, providing $2.065 million annually to governments serving property tax-exempt state property. 
  • Local Sales Tax Option for Populous Municipalities. If approved by local referendum, allow counties to impose an additional 0.5 percent sales tax and allow municipalities with populations over 30,000 to impose a 0.5 percent sales tax to diversify local revenue sources. 

Levy Limits: 
  • Allow municipalities to increase levies by the greater of the percentage change in equalized value due to net new construction or 2 percent. 
  • Eliminate the requirement that municipalities reduce their allowable levy by the amount by which those communities increase fees for covered services.
  • Make it easier for communities to work together to create cross-boundary transit corridors by creating an exclusion to county and municipal levy limits for cross municipality transit routes where the counties and municipalities meet a number of criteria, including that the counties and municipalities claiming the exclusion must be adjacent, must have entered into an intergovernmental cooperation agreement to provide new or enhanced transit services across county or municipal boundaries, and that each participating county or municipality must have passed a referendum approving the agreement. 

  • General Transportation Aids. Increase general transportation aids by 2% for municipalities beginning in calendar year 2022 and by another 2 percent in calendar year 2023. 
  • Transit Operation Aids. Increase general transit aids by 2.5 percent.
  • Reauthorization of MLS Program. Provide $75 million competitive grant program for local multimodal transportation projects.
  • Flood Resilient Infrastructure Grant. Provide $15 million in bonding for a Local Roads for Critical Infrastructure pilot program to combat the increased frequency of roadway destruction from flooding events. 

  • Establish an affordable workforce housing grant program and provide $50 million GPR in fiscal year 2021-22 to provide funding to local municipalities to encourage the development of additional affordable workforce housing in the state.
  • Modify tax incremental finance law to support the development of workforce housing by increasing the amount of a mixed use tax incremental finance district's area that can be comprised of newly platted residential developments to 60 percent instead of the current law 35 percent if that additional amount is used solely for workforce housing.
  • Allow municipalities to extend the life of a tax incremental finance district from one to three years, if the municipality adopts a resolution specifying how the municipality will increase the number of affordable or workforce housing units.
  • Municipalities that adopt workforce housing initiatives by implementing one or more of several enumerated policies aimed at improving the availability of workforce housing receive priority in housing grants from state agencies.

  • Invest over $200 million to expand broadband access in Wisconsin, which is five times greater than the combined investments made in the 2013-15, 2015-17, and 2017-19 biennial budgets. The main component of this investment is an increase in funding for the Broadband Expansion Grant Program at the Public Service Commission to $151.7 million over the biennium, compared to $48 million during the 2019-21 biennium.
  • Make it easier for municipalities defined as broadband "underserved" or "unserved" to directly invest in broadband infrastructure and provide service to residents. Allow these communities to apply directly for broadband grants from the Public Service Commission.
  • Create a grant resource team within the Department of Administration, which will, in part, provide technical assistance to communities in navigating state and federal broadband grant processes.

  • Stewardship. Extend the Warren Knowles-Gaylord Nelson Stewardship 2000 Program until fiscal year 2031-32 at $70 million per year. Provide $700 million in bonding authority for the program. Increase funding for local government grant program form $6 million to $18 million annually.
  • PFAS Testing Grant. Provide $10 million GPR in each year of the biennium for a municipal grant program for the testing and remediation of PFAS by local units of government.
  • Firefighting foam disposal. Provide $1 million SEG in fiscal year 2021-22 for the collection and disposal of firefighting foam that contains PFAS.
  • Great Lakes Erosion Control Loan Program. This new program would assist municipalities and owners of homes located on the shore of Lake Michigan or Lake Superior where the structural integrity of municipal buildings or homes is threatened by erosion of the shoreline. Provide $5 million SEG in fiscal year 2021-22 as an initial capitalization for the program.
  • Urban Nonpoint Source & Municipal Flood Control Grant Programs: Authorize $12 million in environmental fund-supported general obligation bonding authority for urban nonpoint source cost-sharing and the municipal flood control program. Of the $12 million in bonding, $8 million must be set aside for the municipal flood control program.
  • Climate Change Plan. Require a comprehensive plan be developed by municipalities to address climate change, require that local hazard mitigation plans include climate change, and require communities throughout the state to include climate change in their community health improvement assessment and plans.

  • Lead service line replacement. Provide $40 million GPR for the replacement of lead service lines through the Safe Drinking Water Loan Program.
  • Create a water utility assistance program designed to benefit customers through payments to help defray the cost of water and wastewater bills with a fiscal estimate of $10,170,200 GPR in fiscal year 2021-22 and $13,560,200 GPR in fiscal year 2022-23. The program would be administered by the Department of Administration's Division of Energy, Housing and Community Resources.

Labor and Collective Bargaining Law Changes:
  • Restoration of collective bargaining for some Municipal Employees.Establish collective bargaining rights for state and local government front-line workers and their bargaining units to provide workers with the opportunity to negotiate together. Front-line workers are defined as employees with regular job duties that include interacting with members of the public or large populations, or directly involves the maintenance of public works. The Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission would settle definitional disputes.
  • Public Sector Union Certification. Eliminate the annual recertification requirement for state and local government bargaining units, as well as the provision that approval by a majority of bargaining unit members (instead of majority of the vote) is required to certify.
  • FMLA. Expand the Wisconsin Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) as follows: (a) apply the law to employers with at least 25, instead of 50, employees; (b) permit leave to be taken to care for a grandparent, grandchild, or sibling with a serious health condition; (c) expand the definition of "qualifying exigency" to include deployment of a spouse or child, and an unforeseen or unexpected closure of a school or child care facility; (d) expand the definition of "serious health condition" to include medical quarantine to allow workers to take FMLA leave when under a medical quarantine, or caring for someone under quarantine, regardless of whether the person is exhibiting symptoms; (e) reduce the number of hours an employee is required to work before qualifying to 680, instead of 1,000; and (f) extend the statute of limitations for filing a FMLA complaint to 300 days, instead of 30 days.
  • Prevailing wage. Require employers conducting municipal public works projects to pay workers the hourly wage and benefits paid to the majority of workers in the project's area, commonly known as prevailing wage.

Restoration of Municipal Powers:  
  • Reinstate ability of local governments to enact ordinances regulating the landlord-tenant relationship and modify certain statutory language related to landlord-tenant responsibilities that were enacted over the past decade to provide a better balance of rights and protections for landlords and tenants.
  • Restore ability of municipalities to use eminent domain for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. 

Mental Health Crisis Response:
Improve the safety and effectiveness of crisis response in emergency situations by: (a) creating a $1.25 million GPR grant in each year for municipalities and counties to establish behavioral health and police collaboration programs to increase behavioral health professional involvement in emergency response situations; (b) providing $375,000 GPR in each year for additional crisis intervention trainings to local law enforcement; and (c) providing $850,000 GPR in each year to expand Milwaukee County's Crisis Mobile Team.

  • Allow, not require, local clerks to canvas absentee ballots on Monday.
  • Modify timing on Special Elections.
  • Provide funding for costs incurred by local governments for conducting special elections.
  • Allow the Elections Commission to directly reimburse local government's for the cost associated with recounts.

UW Madison and Municipalities:
Provide $300,000 GPR in each year of the biennium to support the UniverCity Alliance program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison which partners with local communities to improve the sustainability, resilience, livability, and general well-being of communities through education, outreach, technical assistance, and research.

More Information: Read the full 2021-2023 Executive Budget, individual agency budgets, and other budget documents here