State Budget Update
As of this writing, the Joint Finance Committee is in Day 1 of its deliberations of the Biennial State Budget that Governor Walker proposed in early February.
To prepare for its important deliberations, the Joint Finance Committee held only four public hearings, and held those hearings during weekday working hours, making it extremely difficult for working men and women to provide testimony. Further, it limited citizens’ testimony to two minutes; many citizens took off work and waited in line for eight or more hours to only be able to speak for 120 seconds. Now, after receiving much-truncated public comment on the budget, the powerful Joint Finance Committee members will begin its deliberations on the Governor’s proposed State Budget for all aspects of the State Government. The Joint Finance Committee will approve, disapprove, or modify various proposals from the Governor, but it also can introduce new proposals into the budget. Therefore, it is imperative that we keep a careful eye on its deliberations.
Today, the Joint Finance Committee worked on a number of State department budgets, including the Secretary of State, the State Treasurer, the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals and Circuit Courts, Judicial Council, Judicial Commission, Public Service Commission, Department of Revenue (just the Lottery Administration), the Department of Administration (just the Division of Gaming), and the Employment Relations Commission.
On Friday, April 18, the Joint Finance Committee will hold its second date of deliberations (officially known as an “executive session”). It will have additional dates set in the near future. We need to make our voices heard on behalf of working men and women. Enclosed, please find the Budget Summary to assist you in your review of the Governor’s proposals.
On the docket for Friday are a number of State department budgets. There are two items that have particular importance to the Labor Community: changes to the workers compensation system and the dismantling of the necessary oversight of for-profit colleges.
** Please call the members of the Joint Finance Committee to oppose these two items.
Splitting the Workers Compensation Division in Two is Bad for Workers
Wisconsin can be proud of its Workers Compensation Division: it is fair, efficient, and cost-effective. And yet, Governor Walker’s proposed budget attempts to upend our Workers Compensation (WC) system by splitting its department and transferring its many functions to two separate State departments.
Since its inception in 1911, Wisconsin’s WC system has been housed in one department, which is now known as the Department of Workforce Development. Our current system has proven results that are beneficial for our workers and employers. Research has proven that:
- Wisconsin’s injured workers heal faster: they return to the work force on average 3 weeks faster than injured workers in other states.
- Wisconsin’s system has lower costs, according to a 16 state study of worker injury claims by the non-partisan Workers Compensation Research Institute.
- Wisconsin’s injured workers are able to navigate the system effectively, resulting in less litigation, which is beneficial for workers and employers alike.
- Wisconsin’s WC premiums are stable and low: they have risen at a pace less than inflation over the past 6 years.
- Wisconsin’s great WC system is completely funded by WC premiums and does not take in one penny of tax-payer dollars.
We know that states who have split systems like Illinois and Texas have worse outcomes for injured workers. Wisconsin’s WC system is one of the best in the country and it should stay that way. Joint Finance Committee Members should reject any proposal that would split and transfer the Workers Compensation Division functions to other departments.
Dismantling The Oversight of For-Profit Colleges is Bad for Workers
Governor Walker’s proposed Technical College System budget includes the elimination of the Educational Approval Board (EAB). The EAB is an important board that oversees for-profit colleges; its mission is to “protect Wisconsin’s consumers and support quality educational options.”
There are almost 250 for-profit colleges in Wisconsin; combined, these institutions took in more than $350 million in tuition last year. These institutions include schools like Everest College, a for-profit college that opened in 2010 and, at its peak, enrolled 700 students. With just one day notice, the college shut its doors in 2012, leaving hundreds of students without the ability to earn a diploma and with thousands of dollars of debt.
Unlike the UW System and the many not-for-profit colleges that educate 90% of our higher-ed students, the goal of for-profit colleges is increased profits and stock dividends. In fact, while for-profit colleges enroll less than 10% of all higher-ed students, they account for 26% of all federal loans and almost 50% of all students who default on their loans.
With less regulation and oversight, more for-profit colleges will be bringing their unscrupulous business practices into our state, via a brick-and-mortar building or a website to deliver online education. These schools will be able to close in the middle of the night, leaving students high and dry with mountains of debt and no diploma. With less oversight and regulation, these businesses will not face adequate repercussion for their actions to defraud Wisconsinites.
Therefore, the EAB is a critical board that oversees these for-profit colleges. The Educational Approval Board itself is comprised of seven individuals that are appointed by the Governor. On February 20, the EAB met and voted formally to oppose its own elimination.
Joint Finance Committee Members should reject any proposal that would eliminate the Educational Approval Board and transfer its duties to other departments that have no background in regulating for-profit colleges.
Joint Finance Committee Members can be reached through the Legislative Hotline at
Sen. Alberta Darling (Co-Chair) (R)
Sen. Luther Olsen (Vice-Chair) (R)
Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (R)
Sen. Leah Vukmir (R)
Sen. Thomas Tiffany (R)
Sen. Howard Marklein (R)
Sen. Lena Taylor (D)
Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D)
Rep. John Nygren (Co-Chair) (R)
Rep. Dale Kooyenga (Vice-Chair) (R)
Rep. Amy Loudenbeck (R)
Rep. Dean Knudson (R)
Rep. Michael Schraa (R)
Rep. Mary Czaja (R)
Rep. Chris Taylor (D)
Rep. Gordon Hintz (D)
We look forward to standing with you as we raise our voices on important issues that will affect working families across our State.