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This budget is built upon a reform dividend. Lower than estimated state spending and higher than previously estimated revenues resulted in a dividend that we are investing into our priorities. Continuing this trend, the latest fiscal year closed with revenues higher than previously estimated. This budget is projected to end with more than a $200 million surplus. When I first took office as Governor, Wisconsin was plagued by billion dollar deficits, double digit tax increases, and high unemployment. Today, years of fiscally responsible budgeting and bold common sense reforms have led to surpluses, billions in tax cuts, and some of the lowest unemployment this century.
Since we took office, Wisconsin has ended every year with a surplus. This budget continues that trend and in addition maintains a rainy day fund that is nearly $300 million. In fact, it is 168 times larger than when we first took office. Not only are our finances under control, but our state’s bonding is being maintained at a reasonably low level. Total new bonding authorized in this and last budget combined is the lowest back-to-back in at least 20 years. We are also paying off debt faster than we are authorizing new borrowing. We are one of only a handful of states with a fully-funded pension system. Our credit rating was just upgraded by Moody’s for the first time since 1973 and our state’s long-term obligations are some of the lowest of any state in the nation. This is all great news for state residents and a good foundation for our state’s financial future.
Investing in student success is an important part of maintaining this positive momentum in our state. This budget appropriates the largest amount of total state dollars into K-12 education of any budget in state history. The increase is the largest in a decade and total state support for K‑12 will be the highest in a decade as well. We invest heavily in all schools as well as target dollars to school mental health, special needs, and broadband programs. These investments will help our students succeed and our state to prosper.
Additionally, we invest in higher education. We make the largest investment into the University of Wisconsin System in a decade by increasing state funding by nearly $100 million. We enact performance funding to ensure focus on student achievement, finishing college on time, and college affordability. We also freeze resident undergraduate tuition for a record six straight years. It is estimated this has saved the average student $6,311 over the last four years compared to the prior ten-year trend.
We are investing into our Technical College System. We set aside $5,000,000 for our technical colleges to partner with businesses to fill high demand jobs. In addition, a significant investment is made into need-based aid for technical college students. Overall, funding for Wisconsin Grant need-based aid will rise to the highest appropriated level in state history.
These investments into need-based aid coupled with freezing college tuition will make getting a degree or certificate more affordable. This will reduce student debt and build upon other positive reforms we have enacted to get students educated, graduate on time, and into the workforce with the skills they need to fill high demand jobs. Lowering the cost of higher education and giving students the skills they need to pursue successful careers can reduce student debt in meaningful ways for future generations.
This budget exemplifies our commitment to accountable government as well. We continue to reduce the tax burden on Wisconsin residents. In total, the cumulative tax cuts since we took office will rise to more than $8 billion with this budget. This includes eliminating the state levied property tax. This is one of the actions taken to meet our commitment to reduce property taxes. This budget is estimated to maintain a property tax bill for a typical homeowner in 2018 that is lower than it was in 2014, which is lower than it was when we first took office in 2010. This has cumulatively saved the typical homeowner thousands compared to the trend prior to us taking office. That is truly amazing.
This budget also reduces the personal property tax. This tax cut will directly benefit small businesses all throughout the state. Our efforts to reduce the tax burden in Wisconsin have been significant. Since we took office, only two other states’ tax burdens improved more than Wisconsin. This is helping to create jobs, grow our economy, and make Wisconsin a more attractive place to live, work, and grow businesses.
This budget and a separate proposal that invests in the I-94 North-South corridor both invest heavily in our state’s infrastructure. Total transportation investments exceed $6 billion. Including these investments, compared to the eight years prior to us taking office, this is more than an additional $3 billion investment into our state’s infrastructure. These investments will build upon our top ten ranked state and local spending on highways per capita in 2014.
The investments in infrastructure include the largest increases in local road aids in 20 years, significant investments into safety and maintenance, and we keep vital major road projects on schedule, such as the I-39/90, USH 10-441, and Verona Road projects. State highway rehabilitation receives a significant investment that utilizes higher than anticipated savings to keep projects on time. Also, in this budget total borrowing for roads is the lowest since the 2001-03 biennium and we didn’t raise the gas tax.
Our state’s employers are telling us they need more workers. This budget meets this need by focusing on rewarding work. One way to accomplish this is by getting more able-bodied individuals trained, off government dependence, and into the dignity and independence that comes from work.
To do this, we continue to expand our drug testing and treatment programs so we can get those in need treatment and ultimately employment. We provide able-bodied adults on public assistance programs opportunities to become trained and join the workforce. We also expand upon our successful workforce training programs such as Wisconsin Fast Forward and our apprenticeship programs to get those seeking employment the skills they need for a successful career.
Wisconsin is working and the policies in this budget will keep Wisconsin moving forward.
I am pleased that the Legislature agreed with my priorities to cut property taxes, fund K-12 education at record levels, and to heavily invest in our state’s infrastructure. This budget proves we can work together to meet our shared goals.
These are short summaries of how this budget promotes student success, advances accountable government, and prioritizes rewarding work:
Student Success
This budget appropriates the largest amount of state dollars into K-12 education in state history at $11,525,378,600 in general and categorical aids. In total, schools will receive a $636,272,000 increase in general and categorical aids which is the largest in a decade. State support for K-12 will also rise to the highest level in a decade.
Investments into broadband are increased by $35,500,000 over the biennium. The investments will benefit rural schools, public library systems, and underserved areas of the state. A permanent Broadband Expansion Grant program will also be created to continue our efforts to extend broadband into underserved areas of Wisconsin.
New funding for school mental health programs is included. This includes $3,000,000 for school social workers, $3,250,000 for schools that collaborate with providers to provide mental health services for pupils, and $1,000,000, including funding provided in 2017 Wisconsin Act 31, to support mental health screening and trauma informed care training for school staff.
A $6,100,000 investment is made into special education incentives. This program provides incentives for schools to enroll special needs students into a postsecondary education training program or become employed. An additional $1,500,000 is invested into a special education transition readiness grant program. These grants would fund transportation for special needs students to internships or work, training for school staff, and additional staff to support coordinating work experiences for special needs students with local businesses and organizations.
High Cost Transportation Aid is fully funded with an additional $10,400,000 over the biennium. This will fully reimburse school districts with comparatively high transportation costs. Eligible districts have costs higher than 150 percent of the state average and 50 pupils or less per square mile.
We create and fund a teacher development grant program under which school districts may partner with an educator preparation program to prepare certain nonteacher school district employees to become teachers. Private schools and charter organizations would also be eligible if they partner with an educator preparation program approved by the Department of Public Instruction. This program provides a tool schools can use to address teacher shortages or curriculum expansions.
We continue the resident undergraduate tuition freeze at University of Wisconsin System schools for historic fifth and sixth straight years. Tens of thousands of students have benefited from this freeze since it went into effect four years ago. Since its first year, a student graduating in four years was estimated to have saved $6,311 compared to the prior ten-year annual average due to the freeze.
We implement performance funding for the University of Wisconsin System. An investment of $26,250,000 was made into performance funding based on student completion, access, contributions to the workforce, and operational efficiency.
We invest an additional $5,000,000 into the University of Wisconsin System to increase enrollments in high demand degree programs.
We increase Wisconsin Grant program need-based financial aid by roughly $15,000,000. This increase will push total need-based aid to the highest appropriated level in state history. Thousands of students will receive aid due to this action that reduces the cost and potentially the debt of graduates.
We extend the Wisconsin veterans tuition remission benefit to certain children and spouses. This will ensure disabled veterans' spouses and children will be eligible for tuition and fee remission at University of Wisconsin System and Wisconsin Technical College System schools if they have been state residents for five or more years.
We provide $648,000 in need-based financial aid for Flexible Option students. Also, we require the Board of Regents to increase the number of Flexible Option degree and certificate programs by 100 percent.
We provide $100,000 in new funding for the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
We provide $490,000 in new funding annually for the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center.
We require the University of Wisconsin System and Wisconsin Technical College System to recognize service members' postsecondary credits recommended by the American Council on Education. This will assist our veterans by saving education costs as they transition from service to civilian life.
We authorize the Board of Regents to create a school of engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Engineering positions are in high demand all over the state, but particularly in Northeast Wisconsin.
Accountable Government
This budget keeps our commitment to reduce property taxes. Property taxes for the typical homeowner are estimated to be lower in 2018 than they were in 2014, which is lower than they were when we took office in 2010. This is estimated to cumulatively save the typical homeowner roughly $3,000 compared to the trend prior to 2010.
Including this budget, we provided over $8 billion in cumulative tax relief since 2010. This includes reducing income tax brackets, cutting income taxes for all Wisconsin earners focused on the middleclass, and enacting a tax credit for our manufacturing and agriculture industries that is making Wisconsin a destination for employers to locate and expand.
In this budget, we eliminate the state levied property tax. This historic action is coupled with other property tax relief measures that are keeping property taxes down in Wisconsin. This keeps more money in families' pockets and makes Wisconsin an even better place to live, work, and raise a family.
We invest $86,935,200 into general transportation aids and into the Local Road Improvement and Bridge Improvement Assistance Programs. These increases for local government general aids are the largest in 20 years.
This budget provides a $63,710,000 increase in safety and maintenance funding. Of this, $33,733,000 will go to Wisconsin’s counties to perform highway maintenance. This increases the total to $373,733,000 over the budget biennium for county performed maintenance.
We provide a significant $1,619,432,400 for State Highway Rehabilitation. This funding will allow the state to complete projects on time, but at a lower cost largely due to savings from competitive bids and lower fuel prices.
The budget provides $563,700,000 for major projects. This funding will keep the I-39/90, USH 10-441, and Verona Road projects on time. The budget also reserves $19.4 million in anticipated project let savings for STH 23.
This budget has numerous provisions that will result in savings to be reinvested into our infrastructure. These include repealing prevailing wage, cutting unneeded positions at the Department of Transportation, and enacting institutional reforms at the department that will together save tens of millions of dollars.
We create a human resources shared services initiative to save taxpayers $2,800,000 over just the next two years. This initiative will streamline human resources policies for better implementation at a reduced cost to taxpayers.
We provide four information technology (IT) purchasing positions to review state IT purchases. The goal is to consolidate similar vendor contracts across the enterprise, strategically source our IT purchases, and save state taxpayer dollars. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on IT supplies and services each year, so trimming even a small percentage of the cost could result in significant savings.
A $63,000,000 program is created for environmental mitigation from Volkswagen settlement funds. Of this amount, up to $32,000,000 may be used for a new statewide capital program to assist local governments in the purchase of transit vehicles. The remaining funds could be used to purchase necessary vehicles for use by the state. These programs would save taxpayer dollars by using settlement funds as opposed to existing dollars for new vehicles. The state will receive $21,000,000 in each of the next three fiscal years for replacement of both state and local vehicles.
We provide $6,700,000 for Next Generation 911 enhancements to ensure our state public service answering points have the capabilities necessary to provide vital 911 services.
We provide 3.25 FTE positions to expand mental health services for girls at Copper Lake School so that they have similar access to mental health services as juvenile males.
There are 8.25 FTE youth counselor positions at Lincoln Hills School to improve staff ratio standards prescribed by the Prison Rape Elimination Act.
This budget provides 9.0 FTE nurse positions for the safe distribution of medication to the juvenile corrections population.
In combination with 2017 Wisconsin Act 32, we increase funding for treatment, alternatives, and diversion programs throughout the state by $4,500,000 and increase funding for drug courts by $300,000.
There is $2,000,000 for beat patrol grants to local governments. These grants are to reimburse for police overtime in cities with population of 25,000 or more.
This budget provides an additional $1,500,000 for the Internet Crimes Against Children program.
We continue $80,000 per year in funding for the Wisconsin Court Appointed Special Advocates to support court appointed special advocacy services for abused and neglected children.
There are an additional 5.0 FTE staff positions to increase support for the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. These staff will assist our pharmacy partners to monitor the dispensing of drugs as we work to stem drug abuse in Wisconsin.
We provide $2,000,000 per year to operate a data analytics system within our Medical Assistance programs. The system is designed to identify, prevent, and eliminate fraud in our state Medical Assistance programs.
There is additional funding for local income maintenance consortia to investigate and prevent fraud. Funding is increased from $1,000,000 to $1,500,000 per year.
We increase funding for our veterans service organization grants. Our state Disabled American Veterans transportation grant will increase to $200,000 per year. Veterans service organization grants will increase by $60,000 per year. Camp American Legion will receive a grant increase to $75,000 per year. These increases will assist these organizations as they help veterans with their claims, with transportation of veterans to health care, and help veterans and families heal from the wounds of war.
We provide an additional $6,250,000 for Children and Family Aids and $460,600 annually to fully fund a previously-enacted foster care rate increase. Total state Children and Family Aids funding will rise to $74,308,000 in fiscal year 2018-19. These funds are used to assist abused and neglected children as well as other children and their families in need.
There is an additional $2,000,000 to provide services to sex trafficking victims. Total funding will rise to $6,000,000 over the biennium.
Foster care and kinship care rates paid to parents and relatives will increase by 2.5 percent in each of the next two calendar years or by $1,140,100 over the biennium.
Additional Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funding of $3,900,000 annually is allocated to the state's home visiting program to expand the number of families served and increase the number of parents equipped with the tools needed to improve chances of success for parents and their children. Program funding would total $14,297,700 in each fiscal year and $28,595,400 over the biennium.
Medical Assistance nursing home and personal care reimbursement rates will both rise by 2 percent in each year of the biennium. This is the largest increase in over a decade. In addition, we increase by $5,000,000 support for nursing homes to provide care for residents with dementia and other challenging behaviors.
We provide funding to increase Family Care capitation rates. This $25,000,000 increase in state funding is intended to address workforce shortages and retention challenges with caregivers.
The waiting list for the Children’s Long-Term Support Waiver program is eliminated. This provides $39,551,900 and is estimated to provide services to 2,200 children with developmental disabilities, physical disabilities or severe emotional disturbances on the waiting list.
There is $3,149,000 to maintain 19 dementia care specialists and increase the number to 24. These positions will assist families as they take care of their loved ones and seniors dealing with dementia.
We provide an increase of $3,611,700 for assistant district attorney and deputy district attorney pay progression. This will provide for two $1.97 per hour pay increases and is intended to improve our retention of experienced district attorney staff. In addition, $3,887,600 will be provided for pay progression for assistant state public defenders.
Rewarding Work
This budget continues to move individuals from government dependence to the true independence that comes from work. Building on the successful reforms to the FoodShare program, this budget creates a pilot program in which able-bodied adults with school-age dependents in two regions of the state will be required to be working, be looking for work, or engaged in worker training. Tens of thousands of individuals on FoodShare have found employment since statewide implementation of the FoodShare Employment and Training (FSET) program.
This budget includes a Medicaid waiver that will allow the state to include a requirement for certain childless adults to be engaged in work, looking for work, or enrolled in a worker training program for the first time if approved by the federal government.
We expand drug screening and testing requirements in numerous state programs. This expansion will extend testing and treatment options to thousands of additional public assistance recipients. This will help move them from government dependence to the dignity and independence that comes through work.
The Learnfare school attendance requirements are strengthened to ensure students are attending school as opposed to just enrolled as is the case under current law. This aims to reduce truancy that leads to poor academic performance.
Wisconsin Fast Forward training grants are increased by $11,500,000. Of this amount, $5,000,000 is allocated specifically for technical colleges. The remaining increase will be used for apprenticeships, mobile laboratories to train offenders reentering the workforce, dual enrollment programs, and other competitive workforce development awards.
We invest $400,000 into fabrication laboratory (Fab Lab) technical assistance grants to nonprofit organizations to provide services to school districts. School districts would also benefit from an additional $500,000 per year in Fab Lab incentive grants. Since the program was created 34 school districts have received grants of up to $25,000. Fab Labs provide hands-on experience to students in the skills they need for jobs in the 21st century.
We eliminate an eligibility cliff in the Wisconsin Shares program for child care. Currently, at a certain income threshold, a family loses eligibility for any child care subsidy which creates disincentives to work more hours or accept pay raises. Eliminating the cliff by creating a phaseout will support more individuals to successfully make the transition from government dependence to independence by rewarding work.
We provide $75,000 per year for a Wisconsin municipality to pilot a homelessness employment program based on Albuquerque's "Better Way" initiative.  The program is intended to provide homeless individuals with work experience and work routine through jobs cleaning up municipal parks and public spaces with a goal of transitioning them into permanent employment. 
We provide $500,000 per year in grants funded by TANF funds to homeless shelters for intensive case management services for homeless families, with a focus on financial management counseling, continued school enrollment for children, connecting parents who are job training graduates or who have a recent work history with their local workforce development board to employment, and enrolling unemployed or underemployed parents in W-2 or FSET. 
The Medicaid Assistance Purchase Plan (MAPP) program is strengthened to provide incentives for individuals with disabilities to engage in work. These changes will eliminate a current premium cliff and give participants greater incentives to work. The MAPP program allows individuals with disabilities to be eligible for Medical Assistance who otherwise would not be due to income and asset requirements.
The Supporting Parents Supporting Kids program is expanded to three additional counties in fiscal year 2018-19. This program helps noncustodial parents not meeting their child support obligations find employment and connect with their children.
An occupational licensing reform study is created. The Department of Safety and Professional Services would conduct a study to identify barriers that occupational licensing requirements create to employment. The study would examine the financial burden these licenses have on license seekers and whether these licenses are necessary to protect public health and welfare.
We allow a person to take the journeyman plumber’s examination if the individual has completed an apprenticeship in this or any state, passed a journeyman plumber’s exam in any state, and has practiced for at least five years under a journeyman’s plumber’s license or equivalent license.
We enact reforms to the Homestead Tax Credit to preserve it for seniors and the disabled while encouraging able-bodied adults to work to qualify.
A grant of $5,000,000 is provided to partner with Brown County, educational institutions, and other industry partners to create the Brown County STEM Innovation Center. This center in Green Bay will provide space for a new University of Wisconsin-Green Bay mechanical engineering program as well as space for high-tech startups. The center will not only help to fill high demand jobs in engineering, but be a place to grow our manufacturing sector.
The budget provides $55,189,000 in funding for a new engineering facility at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.
A grant of $5,000,000 is provided to the St. Ann Center for Intergenerational Care. The funding would help complete the Alzheimer’s and dementia care unit.
A grant of $5,000,000 is provided for the La Crosse Center. The funding will assist to complete renovation and expansion of the La Crosse Convention Center.
There is $2,000,000 to expand the Windows to Work program and other vocational training programs for exoffenders. Also, we provide $660,800 to extend the Opening Avenues to Reentry Success program to more counties. The program provides employment training for mentally ill offenders. These programs aim to reduce recidivism by successful reentry of offenders into employment which saves taxpayer dollars and fills job openings.
We created a five-year offender reentry demonstration project using a trauma-informed approach and targeted to formerly incarcerated males who are noncustodial parents over age 18 and returning to certain Milwaukee neighborhoods. The TANF funding would total $187,500 in fiscal year 2017-18 and $250,000 in fiscal year 2018-19, for a biennial total of $437,500.
There is funding for graduate medical training of $1,500,000. This funding is intended to increase our medical professionals available to work in high need rural and underserved areas of the state.
We provide $2,000,000 for training allied health professionals and advanced practice clinicians. This funding will provide grants to health systems to train and retain health professionals in rural hospitals and clinics.