Capitol Update

April 3, 2017Like us on Facebook

Contents Include:
1.  2017-19 State Budget Summary
2.  WCC Priorities in State Budget
3.  Joint Finance Begins Public Hearings on State Budget
4.  Resources and Recap of Catholics at the Capitol
5.  Websites of Interest

2017-19 State Budget Summary
In February, Governor Walker introduced his proposed biennial state budget for 2017-19 ( Senate Bill 30 and Assembly Bill 64 ).  Between now and July, the Legislature will review the Governor's proposal, as modified by the Joint Committee on Finance, and consider amendments to it.
Within the proposal, the following items are of interest to the WCC:
Tax Credit for Noncustodial Parents.   Establishes a state refundable individual income tax credit for noncustodial parents who are meeting their obligated levels of child support payments.  The credit will equal 7.5 percent of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for which the claimant, who meets certain conditions, would have been eligible if he or she had a qualifying child under the EITC. 
Children and Family Aids.   Increases aid to families by $5 million annually starting in 2018; increases foster care rates; and eliminates the "fiscal cliff" by allowing families participating in Wisconsin Shares with incomes above 200 percent of federal poverty level (FPL) to continue receiving subsidies with graduated copayments.
Child Survivors of Sex Trafficking.   Increases by $2 million in 2018-19 treatment services to sex-trafficked children.
Child Welfare Prevention Services.   Provides $3.9 million annually for child welfare prevention services and extends the potential use of funding beyond Milwaukee County.
Young Adult Employment Assistance Credit.   Creates a refundable tax credit to assist young adults between the ages of 18 and 20 who have aged out of foster care and those who exit the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) at age 18.
FoodShare Child Support Compliance.   Reinstates the child support requirement for FoodShare (food stamp) eligibility, where a custodial or noncustodial parent must cooperate with efforts to establish paternity and a child support order for the absent parent (unless an individual has good cause for refusing to cooperate).
FSET Extension.   Beginning in April 2019, extends FoodShare Employment and Training (FSET) requirements to able-bodied adults with school-age children if not working 80 hours per month.
FoodShare Asset Test.   Recommends implementing a FoodShare eligibility $25,000 household liquid asset test for individuals who are not elderly, blind, or who have a disability.
Supporting Parents Supporting Kids.   Creates a five-county demonstration program to provide work supports for low-income noncustodial parents who are unable to pay child support due to unemployment or underemployment.
EITC Expansion.   Expands the state's Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which benefits working parents with low incomes.  Starting in the 2018 tax year, the EITC for parents with one child will increase from four percent to 11 percent of the federal EITC.  Newly married couples will also avoid tax penalties.
Elderly and Disabled Transportation Aids.   P rovides a two-percent increase in both fiscal years of the biennium for county senior and individuals with disabilities transportation aid.
Expanded Drug Testing.   Expands drug screening, testing, and treatment to new W-2 participants, excluding those in unsubsidized employment and women caring for a newborn or who have an at-risk pregnancy.  No additional funding is provided to W-2 agencies.  If an individual fails to comply or successfully complete treatment, his or her child could receive partial benefit payments through a designated payee for the period of time the parent is ineligible for W-2 (up to 12 months).
Homestead Tax Credit Changes.  The Homestead Tax Credit (HTC) aids owners and renters with low incomes by offsetting expenses tied to property.  While the budget indexes the HTC for certain claimants, those who are non-disabled and under the age of 62 would need to comply with new eligibility rules, which will reduce their ability to claim the credit. 
Transitional Jobs.   Increases by $1 million in 2019 the Transitional Jobs initiative for four rural counties, which would provide subsidized employment and related services for low-income individuals.
Fast Forward.   Provides $11.5 million in funding for the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) workforce training grant program, Fast Forward, and broadens the realm of possible grant recipients.  See also CORRECTIONS.
Homeless Employment.   Creates a homelessness employment program with a goal of transitioning participants into permanent employment.  A municipality would receive $75,000 in each year of the biennium, with a $50,000 matching grant requirement, to pilot the program.  The budget also provides ten $50,000 grants annually to homeless shelters to provide intensive case management and employment services to homeless families.
HUD Work Requirements.  Seeks a federal waiver from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to pilot a work requirement for working-age, able-bodied adults within the housing voucher program.
LAB Review of Parole and Probation.   Directs the Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) to review the policies and procedures of the Department of Corrections (DOC) and the Division of Hearings and Appeals (DHA) in the Department of Administration (DOA) regarding the probation and parole revocation process for an individual who has violated the terms of his or her community supervision.
JCI Rates.   Increases daily rates for juvenile correctional institutions (JCI) to $344 in 2018-19 and $352 in 2019-20.  The current rate is $292.
Earned Release Program Expansion.   Provides 16.25 positions annually to expand the earned release program at DOC correctional centers.  The budget anticipates over $3.7 million in savings, presuming an 84.7 percent program success rate resulting in a reduced daily bed population.
Offender Reentry.   E xpands opportunities for inmates within six months of their release to be moved to county jails so that they can participate in work release and related employment programs.
TAD.   Provides $2 million in one-time funds annually for expansion of the Treatment Alternatives and Diversion (TAD) program, and creates grant funding for similar programs within counties.
AODA Programming.  Provides 25 positions to provide Alcohol or Other Drug Abuse (AODA) services and treatment to a prison population that has grown under newly-enacted enhanced penalties for operating-while-intoxicated (OWI) offenses.
Employment Opportunities.   Provides greater opportunities for employment by increasing support for the Windows to Work (W2W) and the Opening Avenues to Reentry Success (OARS) programs.  The budget further recommends that the DWD employ an apprenticeship coordinator to expand and streamline apprenticeship opportunities for state inmates.  The budget also recommends, under the Fast Forward program, providing mobile classrooms for inmate job skills training at correctional facilities.
Trauma-Informed Reentry.   Creates a five-year offender reentry demonstration project that incorporates a trauma-informed approach with traditional reentry programming.  The program would target formerly incarcerated males who are noncustodial parents aged 18 or older and who are returning to certain inner city neighborhoods in Milwaukee.
Mentor Program.   Recommends providing funding and position authority to facilitate a mentorship program between inmates and citizen volunteers.
Parole Commission Redesign.   Recommends eliminating the Parole Commission effective January 1, 2018.  Instead, parole dispositions will be administered by an unclassified Director of Parole within the DOC.
Mental Health Funding.   Recommends providing expenditure and position authority to operate and staff new health services units focusing on mental health at several correctional institutions.
Per Pupil Aid.   Increases public school per-pupil aid by $200 in 2017-18 and $204 in 2018-19 for a total $508.7 million.  The aid is conditional on compliance with 2011 Wisconsin Act 10, meaning:
  • The school board must submit an annual statement to the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) certifying that it will distribute a certain portion of the aid to the administrator of an eligible school based on the number of pupils enrolled in the school.
  • The school district certifies to DPI each year that school district employees will be required to pay at least 12 percent of employee health care coverage per school year.
Parental Choice Program Funding.   Recommends increased funding for the Milwaukee, Racine, and statewide parental choice programs to reflect general per pupil payment increases of $217 per year.  Based on projected aids payments in the budget, the increases would be as follows:
Grades 9-12                  Grades K-8
$8,186 in 2017-18         $7,540 in 2017-18
$8,403 in 2018-19         $7,757 in 2018-19
There are a number of provisions that would alter or eliminate certain choice program requirements related to prior year attendance, submission of family income information, the submission of annual policies and information to the DPI, school certification standards, operating budgets, summer daily attendance, etc.
Private School Fiscal Agent.   Requires the ombudsman designated by the DPI under current law to ensure that private school pupils have equal access to special education services, to identify a fiscal agent to receive federal funding for providing special education services and other benefits to private school pupils, teachers, and other educational personnel.  Requires that the fiscal agent distribute federal funds in accordance with federal law.  Specifies that a private school could direct the fiscal agent to distribute any federal funding for which the private school is eligible to the school board of the district in which the private school is located.
Milwaukee Incentive Funding.   Provides $5.6 million in 2018-19 for performance-based funding as an incentive for failing schools.  These funds would be available to public, charter, and MPCP schools in the City of Milwaukee.  The budget allocates $1,954,600 for distribution among eligible schools placed in a performance category of "significantly exceeds expectations" or "exceeds expectations" on the school accountability report as published by the DPI in the immediately preceding school year.  Each school would receive a per pupil payment.  The remaining $3,690,600 would go to eligible schools that increase their numeric accountability score by at least three points as published by the DPI for the prior school year (when compared to two years prior).  Again this would be a per pupil payment.
Annual Hours of Instruction.   Deletes the requirement that a parental choice program school annually provide at least 1,050 hours of direct pupil instruction in grades 1 to 6, and at least 1,137 hours of direct pupil instruction in grades 7 to 12.  (Public schools would also no longer be required to provide annual hours of instruction.)  Current law requiring all private schools to offer at least 875 hours of instruction each school year would not change.
Background Checks.   Requires private choice schools to conduct a background investigation of an individual before extending an offer to teach or serve as an administrator at the school.  The investigation must be conducted with the assistance of the Department of Justice (DOJ).  All current employees must also undergo a background check and additional background checks must be done every five years.
Special Needs Scholarship.   Recommends increasing per pupil payments for the program by $217 each year, in accord with other per pupil increases.  The following are also recommended: (a) requiring that the private school governing board, rather than the DPI, verify that a child applying to the school has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) in effect (IEP or services plan documentation must be provided by the district to the private school within five days of the request); (b) permitting an IEP team in the nonresident school district in which the private school is located to conduct a reevaluation of a child with a disability; and (c) permitting the State Superintendent to bar a school from program participation if it misrepresents information required by state law.
Transportation Aid.   Provides 100 percent reimbursement for rural school districts that generate High Cost Transportation Aid.  Increases reimbursement rates for pupil transportation from $300 to $365 for 12 plus miles; $4 to $10 for two to five miles in summer school; and $6 to $20 for five plus miles in summer school; for an increase of $92 million over the biennium.
Success Sequence.   Requires the incorporation of the Success Sequence into the DPI's academic and career planning materials.  The success sequence refers to the idea that economic success is more likely if an individual graduates high school, maintains a full-time job, and has children while married and after age 21.
Accountability Reports.   Recommends requiring school districts to report results related to the following items on school report cards: (a) dual enrollment or Early College Credit; (b) youth apprenticeship; (c) community service hours; (d) advanced placement courses and credits; and (e) earned industry-recognized credentials.
Early College Credit Program.   Modifies the youth options program to create the early college credit program.
School Mental Health.   P rovides $6.5 million to improve and expand school mental health services.
Employment and Training for Childless Adults.  Recommends requiring that childless adult Medicaid recipients participate in job training and employment assistance services, affecting 49,200 adults.  The Department of Health Services (DHS) would need to obtain a federal waiver.
MAPP.   Strengthens work requirements for people with disabilities who are enrolled in the Medicaid Purchase Plan (MAPP) program by requiring proof of paid employment, substantial in-kind work, or participation in pre-employment programming and in-kind work.  The budget also increases the medically needy eligibility limit to 100 percent of the FPL and changes the premium methodology for MAPP.  It also provides additional funding and position authority for the Health and Employment and Counseling program.
Home Visiting.   Provides an additional $3.9 million for the Family Foundations Home Visiting (FFHV) program, which seeks to prevent child injuries, abuse, neglect, and maltreatment.
Eligibility Determinations and Cost-Sharing.   R equires DHS to exclude for certain Medicaid eligibility determinations, any assets accumulated in a person's independence account and retirement benefits accumulated from income or employer contributions while receiving state-funded benefits under the Community Options Program (COP) or MAPP.
Children's Long-Term Supports.   Provides $14,067,300 in 2017-18 and $25,205,500 in 2018-19 to eliminate the waiting list for long-term supports for approximately 2,200 children with developmental disabilities, physical disabilities, or severe emotional disturbances.
Nursing Home Rates.   P rovides an increase of $18,354,900 in 2017-18 and $33,118,900 in 2018-19 to increase nursing home provider rates for a variety of support workers.
Personal Care.   Provides a 2 percent annual increase in the personal care provider rate.
Lead Poisoning.   U pdates the definition of lead poisoning or lead exposure in statute from 10 micrograms per deciliter to 5 micrograms per deciliter and increases the Medicaid reimbursement for investigations.
Broadband Access.   Expands funding for broadband access through transfers in funds and statutory changes for the Public Services Commission, Department of Administration's (DOA) Technology for Educational Achievement Program, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and the Department of Transportation (DOT) for a total of $30.5 million in 2017-18 and approximately $10 million in 2018-19.
WCC Priorities in State Budget
While they contain numerous facts, data, and projections, state budgets are documents through which our state makes choices and sets priorities.  They are about how needs are met and which are deferred or denied.  As such, they are moral documents that define the values of those who enact them.
While the Wisconsin Catholic Conference (WCC) does not take a position for or against the state budget as a whole, it does address aspects of the budget that advance or hinder important priorities.  These budget priorities are addressed in the WCC's 2017-2019 State Budget Issue Brief
For Catholics, a vital priority is always that of meeting the needs of those in poverty or otherwise disadvantaged and marginalized.  In giving voice to the needs of those "on the margins," the WCC Issue Brief calls attention to several budget provisions that deserve to be included in the final document and others that should be removed.  We also urge that one item not currently in the budget be made part of the bill, namely returning 17-year-old nonviolent, first-time offenders to the juvenile justice system.  Please read the Issue Brief for further details.
Joint Finance Begins Public Hearings on State Budget
The Joint Committee on Finance (JCF), which is charged with the first revision of the Governor's budget, will hold six public hearings around the state in April.  Update readers are encouraged to attend and to make their concerns known.
Monday, April 3 (10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.)
University of Wisconsin-Platteville
Ullsvick Hall
30 South Hickory Street
Platteville, WI 53818
Wednesday, April 5 (10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.)
State Fair Park - Exposition Center
8200 West Greenfield Avenue
West Allis, WI 53214
Friday, April 7 (10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.)
Berlin High School (Auditorium)
222 Memorial Drive
Berlin, WI 54923
Tuesday, April 18 (10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.)
Spooner High School (Auditorium)
801 County Highway A
Spooner, WI 54801
Wednesday, April 19 (10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.)
Ellsworth High School (Gymnasium)
323 West Hillcrest Street
Ellsworth, WI 54011
Friday, April 21 (10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.)
Marinette High School (Auditorium)
2135 Pierce Avenue
Marinette, WI 54143
The JCF will conclude taking testimony at the time specified.  Written comments can be emailed to the Committee at BudgetComments@legis.wisconsin.gov, or sent via U.S. mail to Joe Malkasian, Room 305 East, State Capitol, Madison, WI 53702.
Individuals needing assistance, pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act, should contact Becky Hannah, Legislative Fiscal Bureau, One East Main Street, Suite 301, Madison, WI 53703, (608) 266-3847, fax (608) 267-6873, email: Fiscal.Bureau@legis.wisconsin.gov.
Resources and Recap of Catholics at the Capitol
Catholics from around the state gathered at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center in Madison on March 28, 2017, for the Wisconsin Catholic Conference's 10th biennial advocacy day, Catholics at the Capitol.  This "Day of Prayer, Formation, and Advocacy" began with a morning prayer service led by presider Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, which was then followed by a keynote address on human trafficking, introduced by Sr. Francis Bangert, OSF, and provided by Collen Stratton.  A closing session also provided participants the opportunity to reflect on how to be effective advocates and advance the common good in a way that persuades citizens in a pluralistic society.
Participants attended breakout sessions on issues on Catholic social teaching, ethical medical research, poverty reduction, offender recidivism, immigration and refugee policy, servant leadership, human trafficking, water stewardship, racism, and education issues.  Materials from the day's events, such as the keynote speaker's video, WCC Issue Briefs, WCC 2017 Public Policy Positions, and legislative directory are available on the WCC's website.  Special thanks to the bishops, sponsors, speakers, volunteers, staff, and participants who made this day a success.
The next Catholics at the Capitol will be held in the spring of 2019 as we celebrate the WCC's 50th anniversary.  
Websites of Interest
WisconsinEye - Independent, nonpartisan news service that provides uncut video coverage of state government proceedings, as well as interviews with lawmakers and policy experts.
To find out who your legislators are, go to the Wisconsin State Legislature's home page  and type your address in the top right hand corner under "Find My Legislators."

Capitol Update is a periodic e-mail on legislative issues from the Wisconsin Catholic Conference.
Wisconsin Catholic Conference
131 W. Wilson St., Suite 1105
Madison, WI 53703