This is the preview version of the Wisconsin State Legislature site.
Please see for the production version.
Senate Journal
July 2015 Extraordinary Session
MONDAY, July 13, 2015
The Chief Clerk makes the following entries under the above date.
Petitions and Communications
State of Wisconsin
Office of the Governor
July 13, 2015
The Honorable, the Senate:
The following bill(s), originating in the Senate, have been approved, signed and deposited in the office of the Secretary of State:
Bill Number   Act Number   Date Approved
hist38942Senate Bill 21   55   July 12, 2015
(Vetoed in part)
Pursuant to s. 35.095 (1)(b), Wisconsin Statutes, the following 2015 Act(s) have been published:
Act Number   Bill Number   Publication Date
hist38943Wisconsin Act 55   21   July 13, 2015
State of Wisconsin
Office of the Governor
July 13, 2015
The Honorable, the Senate:
Senate Bill 21 as 2015 Wisconsin Act 55 is approved and deposited in the office of the Secretary of State.
Four years ago, Wisconsin faced a $3.6 billion deficit after years of irresponsible budgeting practices and gimmicks. Our state was on the same unstable and untenable path as the federal government. Wisconsin's rainy day fund was depleted and the State had past due bills, including repaying illegal raids of segregated funds. During the four years before I was elected as Governor, Wisconsin lost over 134,000 jobs and the unemployment rate stood at 8.1 percent. Property taxes had increased 27 percent over the previous decade.
While politicians in Washington continued down the path of excessive spending and crushing debt for the next generation, we chose a different path by making tough, but prudent, decisions to regain our financial footing and build the foundation for future growth. Despite continued poor national economic performance and empty rhetoric from Washington, we begin the new fiscal year with a balanced budget and without the accounting gimmicks of the past. In contrast to Washington's soaring debt, Wisconsin's fiscal house is in order. Because of our responsible budgeting, new bonding will be at the lowest level in 20 years. Moody's upgraded our outlook from "stable" to "positive." And our total outstanding debt level has gone down. Wisconsin has $279 million in its rainy day fund, the highest balance ever, and 165 times larger than when I took office. Most importantly, we have reduced the unemployment rate to 4.6 percent, and Wisconsin continues to outperform the national average. Wisconsin workers are finding jobs – 2014 was Wisconsin's best year for private sector job growth in a decade. They are helping to grow our economy and enjoying growth in per capita personal income that exceeds the U.S. average. In addition, similar to my first two budgets, this budget continues to hold the line on property taxes, and in 2014 homeowners realized the first increase in equalized values since 2008. In total, through the three biennial budgets I have signed into law, we will have achieved six consecutive years of property tax reductions. No other state can claim this achievement.
Act 55 continues to invest in our priorities and create prosperity for all of Wisconsin's citizens. The budget I introduced on February 3, 2015, focused on our core themes of growing our economy, developing our workforce, transforming education, reforming government and investing in our infrastructure. It also continued to provide property tax relief while protecting our taxpayers from new taxes and unreasonable fees. My budget recommendations also contained significant reforms in both K-12 and higher education, compassionate entitlement reform and accountability through a drug testing initiative, and additional opportunities for recipients of government assistance to transition to meaningful, family-sustaining employment. Beyond these reforms, my budget recommendations held state borrowing to historic lows, while ensuring a strong infrastructure and setting the stage for a once-in-a-generation $1 billion investment in downtown Milwaukee.
In a highly-competitive, globalized economy, Wisconsin residents and businesses have consistently told us we need lower taxes, a capable workforce, a strong educational system centered on parental choice, and an efficient government in order for us to successfully compete and increase our prosperity. They have not asked for a handout; rather, they have asked for the opportunity to achieve through initiative and independence. It is our job to create this environment and maximize these opportunities by creating jobs, expanding our economy and removing government barriers.
Throughout its deliberations, I worked collaboratively with the Legislature to improve upon the introduced budget. I am pleased the Legislature has returned a budget that achieves our shared goals of continuing to improve our economy, reforming education by putting parents and students first, and sound fiscal management. Specifically, the Legislature worked diligently to enhance funding for public schools while continuing to reduce property taxes.
This bill also reduces the marriage penalty, providing new relief to Wisconsinites. Additional tax relief is provided to teachers, job creators and the families of our neighbors with disabilities. These achievements continue our commitment to keep more money in the hands of Wisconsin taxpayers.
Furthermore, this budget invests an additional $309 million into educational opportunities. This budget also provides parents with more choices, and more information, relating to their children's education, regardless of their zip code.
We are helping to make college more affordable for our state's working families. For the first time in history, University of Wisconsin System tuition will be frozen for four years straight. It was important to us to double down on our historic two-year tuition freeze from our last budget for our students and their families. This budget provides new flexibilities to the University of Wisconsin System to govern its own affairs and achieve significant savings and efficiencies. The budget also reinforces the link between education and employment opportunities by retaining performance-based funding for the Wisconsin Technical College System and dedicating further resources to our successful Fast Forward program. Combined, these investments expand economic opportunity to all.
While the budget provides new opportunities for Wisconsinites to achieve the American Dream, it also protects our most vulnerable neighbors and relatives. This budget maintains our commitment to preserve Medicaid as a safety net for our state's neediest by providing health insurance coverage for everyone living in poverty, despite the continued instability of the Affordable Care Act. It also includes a framework for establishing sustainability in our long-term care system and preserving the rights of families and patients to choose what works best for them.
The budget also includes accountability and opportunity for certain public assistance programs and unemployment insurance recipients by providing both drug testing and treatment. We want people to know the dignity that comes from work. These programs will encourage personal responsibility and workforce readiness. We have continued to reform these entitlement programs by including treatment for substance abuse for those truly trying to overcome the cycle of addiction, so they can provide for themselves and their families.
Further, we are continuing to make prudent investments in Wisconsin's infrastructure by prioritizing major highway projects and comprehensive upgrades to the maintenance of the state highway system. This will ensure the movement of manufacturing and agricultural products to market efficiently. We are also continuing to invest in our tourism industry, which was recently ranked number one in the Midwest. Similarly, this budget also invests in one of our greatest tourist attractions, our magnificent natural resources, by ensuring continued broad access to those natural resources for future generations.
This budget enacts many substantive government reforms, ranging from a shared agency services initiative designed to more efficiently deliver "back office" state agency functions, to consolidating and merging various functions in order to enhance customer service and taxpayer value. Combined, these efforts are reducing the size of state government and enhancing accountability.
Finally, in contrast to politicians in Washington who continue to expand the reach of the federal government, our reforms have put the hardworking citizens and taxpayers of Wisconsin back in control. This budget focuses on growth and opportunity for all with no new taxes, while implementing common sense reforms to ensure state government is more effective, more efficient and more accountable to the public.
The following is a brief summary of how this budget, including my vetoes, will continue to make Wisconsin more prosperous, more independent and more efficient:
Tax Relief
• Reduces property taxes to achieve an unprecedented success of providing six consecutive years of tax reductions for the median value home, a benefit that accrues to all homeowners.
• Reduces the burden of the Alternative Minimum Tax by conforming it to the federal tax code.
• Reduces the marriage penalty by increasing the standard deduction for married filers.
• Improves Wisconsin's business climate by simplifying Wisconsin's tax code and reducing the state's compliance burden on individuals and businesses.
• Newly establishes Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) accounts to empower the disabled community and their families to achieve greater independence and assist with various expenses.
• Provides tax relief to teachers who purchase supplies for their classrooms.
Growing Our Economy
• Completes the phase-in of the Manufacturing and Agriculture Credit to stimulate the development of Wisconsin's key economic sectors.
• Increases the cap on the Enterprise Zone Jobs Credit program to provide additional capacity for economic development incentives.
Streamlines and consolidates the Economic Development Credit and Jobs Tax Credit into a single Business Development Tax Credit to incentivize job creation and investment in Wisconsin.
Simplifies the Wisconsin tax code by adopting numerous updates to the Internal Revenue Code.
Developing Our Workforce
Implements a drug screening, testing and treatment program to increase the workforce readiness of individuals receiving unemployment insurance and those receiving certain public assistance benefits.
Reduces the time limit for participants in Wisconsin Works from 60 months to 48 months, with limited extensions, to encourage participant placements in jobs at a more rapid pace and reduce dependence on public benefits.
Provides $3 million to expand transitional jobs to other high-need communities, including Racine, Beloit and rural communities.
Provides additional funding for GED test assistance and adult literacy grants to support adult literacy for TANF-eligible individuals.
Adds credit for prior learning for veterans who have military training to the performance measures for the Wisconsin Technical College System.
Transforming K-12 Education